Mikva’s All School Colloquium an All School Success
by Alicja Ramotowski
Two or three times a year, the Northside community takes some time to regroup and refresh, as the student body organizes “all school colloquia.” On April 25, the Mikva Challenge organized this spring’s all school colloquium, which was centered around community health and wellness. After X block, the whole school went to the gym where the keynote speaker, Ms. Elizabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, a diversity and inclusion professor at DePaul University and social activist working to improve school environments, gave an opening presentation.
Lindsay-Ryan spoke about how to keep a community healthy, break stereotypes, and create a positive, friendly environment for everyone. She shared her insight on how to be respectful of the wishes of others and make everyone feel comfortable in school. One interesting example she gave was something she called the “platinum rule.” Many students were familiar with the “golden rule,” treat others as you would like to be treated, but the new amendment considers that not everyone wants to be treated the same way, and you should instead treat others how they would like to be treated. Northside is a one-of-a-kind type of school, where cliques are not as prevalent, and unique personalities blossom, but there are still occasional arguments and disagreements. Lindsay-Ryan used interesting examples and anecdotes, including ones from her personal life, pertaining to discrimination she and her family sometimes face because they are different than some other families.
The next part of the colloquium were two breakout sessions, with a break for lunch in between. Some of the options for these sessions included Language and Respect, Managing Stress, Women’s Health and Empowerment, Communication and Relationships, LGBT Health and Empowerment, Romantic Relationships, and more. These individualized assemblies allowed for smaller group experiences. Students could choose what they wanted to learn about and ask questions or give insights due to the smaller group size. “I attended the Communication and Relationships and Maintaining Relationships breakout sessions and learned a lot from the speakers. I’m glad to be at a school like Northside where, thanks to colloquia and events like these, I get to learn about real life and grow as a person,” said Jonah Brinkmann, Adv. 010.
Some sessions were focused on speeches by experts, and others included more hands-on interactions, which allowed volunteers to get involved in the action. One of these was the communication and relationships breakout session, where students learned how to communicate more effectively and stand up for what they want or believe in, without being aggressive. The session was led by Ms. Anne Cooper, a social worker at Northside. First, the students watched a presentation about reactions and types of aggression, which also included how to deal with disagreements or issues that come up in everyday high school life. Next, volunteers from the audience read scripts which were good or bad examples of standing up for oneself, and eventually, the floor was opened up to a more freestyle type of exercise, where once again, volunteers got up in front of the crowd and showed what they had learned.
Other sessions were larger in size, and therefore more general. The afternoon managing stress group met in the cafeteria, where Kezia Shirkey, an assistant professor in Psychology at North Park University, gave a presentation about what stress is, the types of stress, and how to deal with it. Shirkey explained that the different types of stress are all very useful if they arise at the right time, but often in our lives, this is not the case. Nevertheless, they do occur in each of our lives, and ignoring stress can form an unhealthy, tense cycle. The whole group then tried some stress relieving strategies. One of these was to sit up straight, close their eyes, and take a moment to get in tune with their body. Another approach was to create a list of colors. The whole room was busy writing out all the colors they could think of and briefly forgot about all of their troubles. Shirkey illustrated that making a list of any kind--colors, ice cream flavors, names, breeds of dogs, or anything else--can be a good “reset button.” Many of her own students use this strategy in their daily lives. In fact, Shirkey said some students will turn in tests with a list of colors written down the margins because they got overwhelmed and needed a “breather” during the exam.
The all school colloquium took a lot of work to plan. According to Savannah Graziano, Adv. 903, a member of the Mikva Challenge, “We wanted to organize this event last year but ran out of time. Because we couldn’t meet the deadline, we lost the money we had gathered for the colloquium and had to reapply for the grant again this year. After more than three months of intense planning, we were finally able to bring everything together and bring to you the community health and wellness all school colloquium.” Thanks to the hard work and months of planning put in by the club, the whole school got to grow as a community and reflect on daily life, making not only each individual person, but also Northside as a whole, better.