WRENTHAM — Superintendent Paul Zinni and Principal Lisa Mobley are pleased to share that five King Philip Regional High School students participated in the 2023 Connections Conference at Sutton High School.
The Connections Conference, hosted by Sutton High School, was created by a group of Sutton High School students and staff whose mission is to make schools a more welcoming place for all students by thinking about and working on issues connected to prejudice, bias and privilege.
Each year, the Sutton High School Connections Team invites students from over 60 school districts to submit workshop proposals, each with an interactive component, to be presented at the Connections Conference. During the conference, attendees have the opportunity to register for a student-run workshop of their choosing.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Stand up. Speak up. ACT UP!” The goal of this year’s theme is for attendees to gain the skills and knowledge needed to help students be proactive in their own schools to make them places where everyone feels loved and valued for who they are.
King Philip Regional High School students Ahunna James, Chris Sesay, Bastion Hamilton, Lauren Barriero and Vicky Cosmo, along with English and Language Arts Teacher, Erin Nerlino, share a passion for making positive changes in the school community through awareness and education.
James, Sesay, Hamilton, Barriero, Cosmo and Nerlino began working together over the summer of 2022 to form a cohesive workshop proposal. They focused on providing participants with strategies to disrupt an incident of harassment, and on examining the ways that power dynamics, related to a victim’s visible identities, come into play during incidents of harassment.
“Each step of the way these students have impressed me,” said English and Language Arts Teacher Erin Nerlino. “These students are passionate about making a difference in our school community and I could not be more proud.”
The students submitted their bystander intervention workshop proposal in December and were selected in February by the Sutton High School Connections Team to present their student-run workshop at the 2023 Connections Conference. Over 50 proposals were reviewed during the selection process.
“No matter what age you are, I believe that bystander training is essential to positively contributing to society,” said Ahunna James. “Being a part of the conference has opened up a different lens that I didn’t have of the world and taught me that it all starts with you.”
The 2023 Connections Conference was held on Friday, March 17 at Sutton High School. During this time James, Sesay, Hamilton, Barriero and Cosmo welcomed 40 students to their Strategies for Successful Intervention: Bystander Workshop.
The workshop started by defining the history of bystander intervention, why it is important, and the negative mental, physical and collective effects of harassment as a public health concern. It then used a video of real-life harassment as an example, covered the five strategies, and provided opportunities for participants to think through how to apply the five strategies if they were in the situation that the video portrays. The workshop ended with four school-based scenarios, based on real-life incidents that the student presenters have witnessed or experienced. The scenarios facilitated a discussion of how applying these strategies based on one’s identity could help disrupt harassment.
“All it takes is one individual to spark a revolution of change,” said Lauren Barriero. “It is important for me to be able to present five practical techniques for individuals eager to effect change, in order to raise awareness of the hazards of harassment and how to safely confront them.”
Following an impressive presentation at the 2023 Connections Conference, King Philip students James, Sesay, Hamilton, Barriero and Cosmo were invited by the Sutton High School Connections Team to present their Strategies for Successful Intervention: Bystander Workshop at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)/ Massachusetts School Administrators Association (MSAA) Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Symposium.
“I am beyond grateful for the receptive ears that this training has reached, and thankful for the opportunity to continue speaking out,” said Victoria Cosmo. “The catalyst for inclusivity is an open mind, and the key to a healthy community, especially in an educational setting, is cultivating accountability.”
The MIAA/MSAA DEI Symposium will be held at the MIAA/MSAA office, 33 Forge Parkway, on Friday, May 5. During the symposium, students will have the opportunity to present their workshop to an audience of teachers, administrators, athletic directors, and coaches.
To learn more about the MIAA/MSAA DEI Symposium, click here.