“A World of Difference” program: A step toward eliminating bias at WHS

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Credit: Slideshow shared with WHS students

WHS incorporates the “A World of Difference” program into its curriculum. Several students and staff hope that this program will make a positive impact within our community through anti-racist and anti-bias work. “[Students who sign up for the program are] going to have a lot of opportunities to grow their own skills in leadership, in leading conversations and in facilitating dialogue,” WHS Assistant Principal Sean Gass said. “That’s a huge thing that even a lot of grown ups don’t know how to do.”

Nadya Chase

After multiple recent discriminatory incidents in the Wayland community, many staff members and students have felt the need to incorporate more anti-bias and anti-racist work into the Wayland community. In hopes to improve Wayland’s response to racism and bias, Wayland High School has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to implement the “A World of Difference” program into the WHS curriculum.

Any WHS student interested in joining the “A World of Difference” program can sign into the program’s Google Classroom using the code “oz2ezlw.” To complete the application process, students will need to fill out questions posted in the Google Classroom, as well as complete interviews.

The program will meet during school hours as a non credit-bearing class. During meeting times, students will have different opportunities to practice leadership skills, engage in discussions surrounding anti-bias and anti-racist work, participate in projects surrounding these ideas and more.

“[The program] is important because it will allow students to have [anti-bias and anti-racist] conversations and recognize a little more about themselves and their own bias,” Spanish teacher and ADL program advisor Nicole Haghdoust said. “Ultimately, I think [the program] will make WHS a better place for all students.”

WHS staff members who are a part of the program, along with ADL members, will be training WHS students to lead the anti-bias and anti-racist work. Each year, these student leaders will work with the incoming ninth graders on how to recognize bias and how to act appropriately when they witness an act of discrimination.

“The purpose and goal of the program is to have anti-bias conversation and work be a normal part of our school, [and to make sure] that we are examining our world critically and talking about the ways people are treated and mistreated in our world,” WHS Assistant Principal and program advisor Sean Gass said. “[We also] want [the program] to empower students to work with their peers so that the peer leaders get that experience of leadership and of learning how to handle difficult questions and difficult situations.”

The purpose and goal of the program is to have anti-bias conversation and work be a normal part of our school, [and to make sure] that we are examining our world critically and talking about the ways people are treated and mistreated in our world”

— Sean Gass

In order to make the program an impactful opportunity for every WHS student, several students and staff members believe it is important for the program to include representatives from a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

“We’re looking to have a really diverse representative group of students,” Haghdoust said. “We want students who are very involved in social justice, who really want to be leaders [to join the program].”

Allyship is extremely important to many WHS students, including sophomore Elyssa Smith. To Smith, the program seems like a great way to bring people with different perspectives and backgrounds together towards a common goal of eliminating bias within Wayland schools.

“I feel like allyship in itself is a human right,” Smith said. “I feel like the way that people treat others who are part of [minority communities] pushes me to be a more active ally because it hurts to see a lot of people being treated [in harmful ways], or to see them being brought down. This [treatment] needs to change.”

While for many the program seems like a fantastic way to spread awareness within our community, some have expressed concern with the ADL’s controversial political views. However, after discussing any concerns with the ADL themselves, administrators and program advisors have decided to continue working with them, as the organization has proven themselves to the Wayland leaders in change of the decision through their continuous anti-racist and anti-bias actions.

“The ADL was great because when we sat down with them, they were very honest and very conscious of their own examination of their policies and positions, and they had reversed a number of these policies and positions based on new thinking and new information that they had learned,” Gass said.

To many WHS staff and students, this program will be a step in the right direction towards preventing future discriminatory incidents from happening in Wayland.

“I think that on a societal level, we need to be tackling bias, racism and the various things that divide us in order to fix our world,” Gass said. “I also strongly believe that everyone’s education gets better with comprehensive culturalism and anti-bias work, no matter who you are, and we need to be able to look across lines. [We all] need to be able to understand somebody else’s experience, and if [we] don’t talk about that and [we] don’t see it and work with it, [we’re] going to enter the world with a blind spot.”