“We Are WJ” hosts opening meeting, brainstorms plans


Clara Freitas

The first meeting of  “We Are WJ” occurred Monday, October 9.  Principal Baker gathered members of student groups such as the Minority Scholar Program, Black Student Union, Gender & Sexuality Alliance, Jewish Student Union and the Leadership class to discuss how to create a more welcoming environment for every ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation and identity, to raise awareness of discrimination and racism and to plan ways to celebrate WJ’s diverse student body.

“[What we are really trying to do] is to create a respectable, positive environment at WJ where everybody feels welcome,” Baker said. “After the presidential election, some things started to bubble up in our country… [and] in our school, so I decided that we really needed some type of group to [promote] unity and respect.”

In this meeting, the group primarily brainstormed activities. Last year, “We Are WJ” published a video on The Pitch of students sharing stories of racism and discrimination that happen at WJ. They also decorated the halls with flags from various countries during the week prior to International Night. The group is planning to expand the hall decoration idea, potentially scaling it as large as  a Homecoming Hall.

“We [are also] thinking about doing more cultural assemblies,” Baker said during  the meeting. “Traditionally we have three cultural assemblies, the African-American, Asian and Hispanic. I’ve already talked to sponsors about doing a more blended, well-rounded [assembly].”

SGA Secretary Connor Phelps has been a member of the campaign since last year. He reminded the audience in the meeting that they are not preaching that everyone be friends, just that everyone’s  differences should be accepted and respected.

“We just want to present everyone equally and make everyone feel comfortable,” Phelps said. “You can’t get to that place of acceptance without the understanding,” Baker added.

Baker also worked with WJ staff members prior to the school year to create welcoming environments in the classroom. She ran a Cultural Proficiency seminar, where the “We Are WJ: A series” video was showcased among other materials in order to better explain the issues at hand..

“[The video] really highlighted the need… and showed that [discrimination and racism] happens between students and between staff,” Baker said.

A plan to introduce cultural proficiency seminars for students could also be introduced later this year.

“It worked at Winston Churchill High School, and I think it could work here,” Minority Scholars President Amy Ackel  said.“A lot of students feel very isolated, especially [students in] ESOL.”

Wanda Jones-Yeatman, parent of a freshman at WJ, addressed the club..

“I wanted to thank you because the work you are committing to do, while it may seem that it’s just another club, [you are] really choosing to be a world changer,” Jones-Yeatman said. “Because it’s the little things you do that shift the dynamic of the world. And particularly in the time we are living today, you choosing to show up as a person that honors, values and respects difference, and choosing to invite others to do that as well, is amazing.”