Students find their voice as Study Circles expand at WJ


Photo courtesy of Melanie Schwed

Student and teacher participants of Study Circles show off their certificates they earned for completing the program. After a long and achieving two days they are happy to have participated and been apart of this program.

In the past years, WJ’s student body has faced many social hardships. Between racism, gun violence and bullying, it’s not only the school that has seen obstacles like these, it’s society as a whole. To address these issues, social studies teachers Mel Schwed and Allison Hoeffling have taken it upon themselves to run Study Circles at the school. The most recent circles were held on Dec.19 and 20.

“I thought it was an important thing that I did because needed discussions were held,” senior Stella Weiss said, “I learned a lot about WJ itself and how privileged I am because people have had experiences that I didn’t even think happened at WJ.”

The Study Circles are a fairly new county-wide program for students to sit in for two whole school days to discuss, address and attempt to solve social injustices at the school. The program is optional and has become very popular among the student body since kicking off in the Fall of 2020.

“My sociology teacher recommended it to me and it seemed like something cool that I could do and something I could try out to further understand different people and their backgrounds at WJ,” junior Ian McClain said.

A lot of students found out about Study Circles through their teachers who were involved in the program. Even though they weren’t necessarily aware of the effect it had on them, students were pleasantly surprised by what they got out of it.

“I thought it was very helpful to hear about other people’s experiences in the school,” freshman Daniel Green said. “It was very eye-opening for me.”

Students who participated in the program shared experiences similar to Green. Not only did it allow students to reflect on and share their own experiences, but it also created a bond and understanding between students when participating.

It was a great way to learn about different things and racial stuff that’s happening in school. Also, [we got to] just to bond with other people and not be biased,.

— Anah Simwenyi

Overall, students said they would recommend Study Circles to everyone. The program isn’t specific to a certain group of people. The point is that it is inclusive to all students that want to participate and further educate themselves.

During study circles, almost every topic is covered and everyone is given time to voice their opinion, concerns and beliefs. As such, the program is a great way to help better the school community and prevent social injustices within the school.

“I think it’s very important to do it if you get the chance to and I recommend anyone who ever feels like they don’t have a voice at WJ to go and express themselves at this summit,” Weiss said.