The Wayland Leadership Coalition: A call for change in Wayland

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Credit: Nadya Chase

The Wayland Leadership Coalition begins to meet and have conversations surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. “The direct goal [of the coalition] is to support and train the type of leaders students see themselves as,” Innovation teacher Hayes Hart-Thompson said. “The bigger goal is to have a group of Wayland community leaders who are able to engage in conversations with staff, other students and admin about areas that they want to see impacted with change.”

Nadya Chase

After several Wayland High School students expressed interest in creating a group focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, Innovation teacher Hayes Hart-Thompson, librarian Kassie Wright and chemistry teacher Courtland Ferreria-Douglas decided to take action. Together, these three teachers organized the Wayland Leadership Coalition, a group funded by the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) which focuses on empowering student leaders to voice their opinions and make changes within the Wayland community.

Certain students were originally recommended for the coalition by teachers who witnessed the students showing exemplary leadership skills. However, the coalition is open to all types of students who would like a chance to learn more about leadership and experience different leadership opportunities. Anyone that is interested in joining the coalition can email one of the three advisors for more information.

During meetings, the student leaders will engage in several conversations in order to dive deeper into the changes they want to see in the Wayland community. So far, Hart-Thompson believes that many impressive, advanced conversations have taken place, and they are excited to further experience these student-led discussions.

Seeing a group of young people who are so willing to have really difficult conversations is just amazing.”

— Hayes Hart-Thompson

“The students are awesome, we have had so many amazing conversations with individuals within the group,” Hart-Thompson said. “Everyone who’s part of [the coalition] is so willing to open up and have conversations, [and] seeing a group of young people who are so willing to have really difficult conversations is just amazing. I personally feel really lucky to be part of such amazing student leaders who are making these things happen in their small community and [figuring out] how they can make these things happen in a bigger community.”

According to the advisers, the coalition will allow students to speak up about the changes they believe are necessary to make in Wayland, and allow students to take actions regarding those changes. For many, the most important part about the coalition is the fact that it will incorporate more student voices and perspectives into positions of power within WHS.

“Knowing that there’s a conference entirely created by your peers and entirely created in the eyes of a high school student is pretty awesome,” Hart-Thompson said. “I haven’t seen a lot of that before, so I think it’s just really exciting to think that students will actually be the ones creating this, and it’s not admin, it’s not teachers and it’s not staff.”

According to Wright and Hart-Thomspon, many student leaders were enthusiastic and excited to participate in the group discussions during the coalition meetings. Thanks to the advisers’ leadership, several students have felt comfortable enough to open up and discuss important issues within the Wayland community.

“Teacher Hayes and Ms. Wright are really leading [the coalition] in the correct way,” sophomore and student leader Hedaia Elelimy said. “They’re really giving us the freedom to give our opinions about what we like, what we don’t like and how we want to lead the club. I definitely think [the coalition will lead to change at WHS] because a lot of the decisions are usually made by the administration, and what they see going on, but I think giving the students the opportunity to voice their opinions and say what they want to see would really benefit the school.”

Wright finds that for the most part, high school students are not provided with an opportunity to learn necessary leadership skills or experience leadership firsthand. She believes that the coalition will provide a great opportunity for students to get ahead and learn these important skills at a young age.

“Leadership is important because anyone can be a leader,” Wright said. “[People] don’t have to be outspoken to be a leader. Sometimes just by being there, you’re already leading. Knowing that you can make a difference [is really important]. I really value [leadership] for [students] because when I was in school, that was not something that was taught to me. I did not know how to speak for myself or how to even properly speak to authority, [and] the minute I learned how to talk to my authority figures, everything [changed].”

[People] don’t have to be outspoken to be a leader. Sometimes just by being there, you’re already leading.”

— Kassie Wright

Oftentimes, many students do not know how to voice their concerns or desire for change to members of authority. The advisers of the coalition feel that it is especially important to provide different leadership opportunities and facilitate conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion at the high school level for this reason.

“[Us teachers] can’t speak for [students] as much as it feels like we can, [students] all are the voices that can make the change you want to see in our community,” Hart-Thompson said. “Our entire focus is empowering those voices and having some structure so that you have people from different communities in the school having conversations. The long term hope is to really give a voice to [all] students and let them know that we care as teachers and want to hear what they have to say.”

Many student leaders and the coalition advisers believe that the Wayland Leadership Coalition is an especially important group to incorporate into WHS. Several student leaders look forward to facilitating important discussions and making changes, as well as seeing more diverse voices incorporated into the decision making process.

“I think a lot of things that happen that are offensive to people who are minorities usually come from a place of ignorance or just not knowing,” Elelimy said. “Being able to talk about what is offensive, what isn’t offensive and what we can do to make people feel more welcome is what’s really going to help us become more of a community at this school.”