Ally Week kicked off with a Lower School Assembly on Friday, January 19, at which the Third Grade Ally Week ambassadors explained what an ally is, who some famous allies are and how A-S boys can be allies. (See attached video.) The Lower School classrooms spent time during their morning meetings all week discussing scenarios in which an ally is needed and how one can be an ally. (Click here for a sample scenario.
) Homerooms read books about gender identity and different family structures as part of the conversation.
The Middle School classrooms completed a GLSEN
activity, which encouraged discussions that had the boys recognize implicit and explicit stereotypes, talk about inclusivity and respect, and share personal experiences. Gathering as an entire division, they recommitted to the Ally Week pledge of being allies and upstanders.
In the Upper School, advisors executed a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)-created lesson plan and discussed LGBT terminology. They shared what they knew or what they wanted to learn about the LGBT community and how they can be allies and provide support.
The week closed with an incredible panel at Friday Morning Meeting for the Middle and Upper Schools compiled by the CL+D Committee. The panel consisted of: Zachary Rahaman ’18, Lincoln Williams ’19, founder of Allen-Stevenson’s Upper School GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Santi Vargas ’18, Art Department Chair Julia Kunin, Evan Goldstein P’27, Andy Chia Yu P’27, former Development Director David Smith and Athletics & PE Director Rich Alifano. Upper School English Teacher Robin Keats moderated after Dare Rolfe ’18 and Will Schlesinger ’18 set the tone for the audience, with Dare asking them to think about how it takes only one person to say a kind word to change how a person feels.
The panel began with the students describing what it means to be an ally. Zachary Rahaman said that being a friend is being an ally. Being open and understanding is being helpful. Lincoln Williams felt that being an ally is being a 100% supporter. Santi Vargas believes that being an ally is being a friend, not a bystander.
The adults on the panel went on to describe their experiences in coming out, either living as a gay person or by being an ally. Julia Kunin has been at Allen-Stevenson since 1996 and has seen a lot of change and believes the School is moving in a positive direction supporting the LGBTQ+ community. She came out at 14 years of age and she didn’t have a GSA, but had one friend who was very supportive. Julia went on to say how important it is that schools are a safe place and hopes that the boys feel that A-S is such a space.
Current parents Evan Goldstein and Andy Chia Yu looked to the older boys in the audience and asked them to be role models for their kindergarten son. They said a true ally is a real friend who accepts you for who you are and likes you that way. David Smith discussed what it is like being part of a minority within a minority as a Black gay man. He needed to build allies and learned all he could about his friends and co-workers so there was trust. He left the boys with this advice – they have a special opportunity through ally-ship to put an end to LGBTQ+ discrimination, and to use their privilege where they can be of help.
Rich Alifano closed the panel by talking about being a good, kind, accepting and understanding person. He admitted that he wasn’t always like that and realized it specifically when one of his sisters came out. He recognized that when it’s personal it’s harder to be hurtful. He asked the boys to be there for each other and to be good people.
Devin LaSane, Co-Directors of the CL+D Committee, said: “Ally Week at Allen-Stevenson provides a wonderful opportunity for the boys and teachers to have discussions that continue the important social and emotional learning that is already taking place throughout our school. I was pleased to hear so many meaningful conversations take place about how to be an ally and how to make everyone feel safe, happy and included at School.”