Over the last month, about 40 students from Haverford and Agnes Irwin worked with SpeakUp!, a youth-driven, interactive program that brings young people, educators, and parents together for a shared dialogue.
This year focused on five main topics of high school life: substances, expectations and societal pressures, sex, relationships, and mental health. The student-leadership team took charge and picked the topics of breakout sessions. Throughout the three leadership meetings, participants interacted and expressed their thoughts on each individual topic. Although some situations were uncomfortable, they helped students get used to leading the conversation, which benefited them in later breakout sessions.
The event on October 23rd started with an introductory gathering with an amusing, interactive game show about our topics. Helpful and important suggestions arose from the game: avoid distractions, be calm, honor privacy, create a safe environment, suspend judgment, and share your experiences rather than give advice. 75-minute small breakout sessions followed, facilitated by student leaders and working professionals.
I picked the topic of expectations and societal pressures. I wanted to learn more about the connection between parent and student expectations, social life, and racial expectations. Entering the breakout session, I hardly knew what to expect. Our professional facilitator, parents, and other students paved and sparked questions about the interesting and vast topic.
This new atmosphere filled with parents and students I did not know was uncomfortable but rewarding. I was fearful of sharing my own personal experiences and thoughts because I did not know if this was an accepting or understanding environment.
The diverse opinions enhanced the conversation and made us think.
After we got to know everybody, I started off the conversation with the subtopic of school expectations and how it influences us. Surprisingly, many of the adults shared their own experiences and opinions. It felt welcoming, to have someone understand and empathize with your thoughts. The diverse opinions enhanced the conversation and made us think.
These conversations on social life, specifically the expectations of your friends, made us communicate our thoughts when we would usually never have these discussions. Speak Up! is incredibly rewarding for students who struggle. Identifying your struggles and others who feel the same is deeply valuable for the Haverford community.