We framed the synchronous portions of orientation around three themes: Community, Justice, and Joy. We started this school year in the wake of great loss due to several structural and institutional failures to protect those in our communities. Many of our students spent the past spring and summer digging into work around anti-Blackness, xenophobia, transphobia, power and privilege, climate justice, racism, bias, mental health and wellness, and more to think through what their individual responsibilities are to building just & joyful communities, but also to understand what systemic changes need to happen for the greatest impact.
The Community, Justice and Joy module was intentionally synchronous and spread across two days. Though community, justice and joy operated as their own threads thematically, we firmly believe that they are inextricably linked. For each theme, there was a plenary session for all students, followed by breakout sessions designed specifically for new students and for returners. At the onset, we acknowledge that a couple of days of programming would not solve these challenges but we hoped to have organized a series of opportunities that lent to both short and long term goal setting for moving our community towards a more just and inclusive space.
Whether you were new to Andover or returning, Group A joined student leaders from across campus for “Community in 2020 – Reaching Out and Sustaining Connections. Ready, Set, Go!” to explore the importance of building and sustaining relationships wherever we find ourselves this school year and brainstormed how to find, establish, and grow our connections to one another. How can we be ‘together apart?” Students also have the ability to speak to student leaders on how they have found community at Andover!
“…We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love…”
Group B students joined student leaders from across campus for a discussion on “Youth From Every Quarter, Andover One and All” to explore ways to be our authentic selves with one another and to lead with curiosity about ourselves, others, and what it means to be part of an intentionally diverse community? How will we create inclusive spaces with each other? Students had the opportunity to speak to student leaders about how they could create and find this space at Andover!
Returners– Mapping Your Place in the Justice Ecosystem
“In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, shared liberation, inclusion, and justice. And yet, we often get lost and confused, or we are newcomers to ongoing social change efforts and don’t know where to start, or we are catalyzed into action in the midst of a crisis in our community.” In this session, we’ll use Deepa Iyer’s framework to map our individual roles in social change ecosystems to “align and get in right relationship with social change values” in “the broader ecosystem” that is Andover.
New Students– In Chimimanda Adiche’s “Danger of a Single Story” she warns that because of the way we are conditioned and socialized we can be on both the receiving end of a single story and among those perpetuating single stories of others. “Show a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” Not in actuality, of course, but in our own imaginations. The problem rests in that our imaginations do not exist in isolation but permeate our real, lived, everyday lives, influencing our acts and actions towards one another. And, from what we’ve seen in our socio-political landscape, that can be the difference between life and death. In this session, we’ll explore and expand upon these ideas first by investigating the single story of our institution and the single stories we held in our previous communities. We hope the conversations will continue throughout the year to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes we hold.
Returners- When pandemics intersect: COVID-19 & BLM
We are starting this school year amidst not one, but two horrific pandemics: COVID-19 and the multiple attacks on Black bodies that have reached unbearable proportions. When COVID-19 was first being referred to as a global pandemic, it was said that it affected all people equally. That one’s race, class, gender, status didn’t matter–that the virus didn’t ‘discriminate’. But that’s only if you operate under the presupposition that structural racism, classism, cisexism and other forms of institutional violence are not woven into the fabric of our nation’s milieu. What the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others exacerbated were historical structural and systemic failures to protect those in our communities, and gave way to local movements such as black@Andover, examining their own ecosystems. In this session, you will focus on the intersections of COVID-19 & BLM and these systems of privilege and position yourself within them. You will reflect on what the past months have meant for you and your peers, especially in light of black@andover, and you will articulate SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals and B-HAG (big hairy audacious goal) to help our Andover community confront and heal from these pandemics.
Group B (cont.):
New Students– At Andover, we believe that storytelling is an effective and necessary tool for building community and effecting social change. Justice movements rely on the power of stories to not only build our empathy muscles but also to help us understand patterns that reveal systemic and structural issues we need to examine. You each bring with you stories that have influenced who you are, your values and your beliefs, and our hope is that through engaging a community of learners from all around the world, your own understanding of yourself and the world will continue to evolve. Our power players will be forming a number of monologues and skits based on the experiences of Andover students meant to help us understand what ways we ought to relate to one another as a community to create a more equitable and just school. We’ll ask you to engage in discussions with your peers about the ways in which injustice and oppression surfaces on Andover’s campuses and how we can better address these instances as Andover students.
First-year at Andover? Great come to group A! Andover is a place to develop, lead, unite, and make your home! Andover will strive to support you in a multitude of ways on campus, and a big one is to feel joy in all that you will accomplish in your academics and personal endeavors! In group A, we will discuss resources Andover has for you to experience and find joy on campus. You will also have the ability to speak to student leaders on how they have found joy at Andover! Andover is committed to establishing a community on justice and equality. The best way to do this is with a great big smile and the feeling of joy in your heart. We cannot wait to see your smile and talk about how you will experience joy this year!
Returners Welcome back!!! Plenty has occurred since March in our personal lives, in our country and the world! Over the past days, weeks, hours, and months we have dealt with, adjusted, and reconfigured many things in our lives. One of the things we have had to adjust is how we find joy throughout our daily lives and activities. As we return to learning and experiencing Andover, we again will have to adjust and reconfigure the ways we find joy either here or remotely. Let us not do this alone however, together we can dive deep, share, and work together so we can all experience joy this year, no matter what comes our way. Together, with a smile on our face and support in our hearts, let’s find Joy as one Big Blue Family.