Classes host experimental ‘Privilege Walk’ activity

Courtney Cohn, Staff Writer

English teacher Cachanda Orellana’s sophomore English classes participated in a Privilege Walk activity in the student commons on February 2 during class. The Privilege Walk is an activity used in many schools with both students and teachers. It has been an effective way to show students how they are different from others and encourages them to embrace diversity and differences.

At the beginning of the activity, the students lined up in one straight line at the base of the steps. Orellana read several statements and instructed her students to take a step backward or forward if the statement applied to them. She told them to take a step back if their parents were forced to come to the U.S. and they had no choice. About five or six students stepped back at that point. She also told them to step forward if their family has health insurance. The rest of the activity continued on like this with many statements about topics such as ethnicity, social status and economic opportunities.

At the end, the class was split with some students in the front of the commons and some in the middle and back. The walk was carried out in such a way that students felt comfortable with their differences and were not ashamed to be in front of or behind their friends. Sophomore Alfred Fisher gained a new perspective on his past experiences.

“I was in the back… It was really interesting for me to see how my experiences have changed me. I’m personally proud to be in the back and although it makes life harder, it’s more experience on my part and I have a different perspective. I appreciate that,” Fisher said.

Many students were separated from their friends over the course of the activity, while others stayed together the entire time. Sophomore Aymone Sedogo was surprised that her friend ended up across the room from her at the end.

“I thought [my friend and I] were going to move forward together, but she actually ended up behind me. It just made me feel like weird because I would step up and I would turn around and she would be all the way at the [back],” she said.

The students participated in the Privilege Walk in order to help them complete their research assignment for their class. They will soon have to write a research paper about discrimination and inequality, and each student has to come up with an individual research question to answer. This walk helped them make their research questions more specific and focused on one issue.

Orellana believed that the walk was a success and will definitely continue to have her classes participate in it in future years. She made conscious efforts to make students feel comfortable during the activity and everything ran smoothly as a result. She also encouraged students to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

“Each student wants there to be a safe place for them to open up and I think once you connect with that, it’s very easy to… imagine what you want for yourself, now do that for someone else,” Orellana said.
The Privilege Walk not only helped students write their research papers, but it also taught them to understand each other and learn that they are not defined strictly by their differences.