Let your voice be heard!
In honor of Black History Month, a group of students at Bordentown Regional High School will be holding virtual conversation sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m. for people in the Bordentown community.
Student Voices, a group that was created this past fall by school counselor Amy Rabenda and Patrolman Adam Edwards of the Bordentown Township Police Department, will conduct eight breakout sessions that will deal with different topics of race and social justice.
“We want to make Bordentown Regional High School a place where we can talk about race issues and other problems going on in our town and the world,” Rabenda said. “We need to talk more about these issues and learn more about other people in our community.”
Edwards, who has held the position of school resource officer at the high school since 2017, said he and Rabenda felt it would be a good idea to start a group for students to speak about their feelings toward issues going on in the world, especially due to the events that happened in 2020.
“We spoke with people last year about what we can do more to help kids with issues going on in today’s world and said let’s try to start a group,” Edwards said. “Everybody has different experiences in school. We want to hear what they see and what they think we could do differently to improve on those issues.”
A total of seven students joined the group.
Some students talked about the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on their lives, while others spoke out about issues involving race and social injustice from the death of George Floyd that sparked many Black Lives Matter protests around the country.
The conversations turned into a success as Rabenda said the students did a great job supporting each other on different topics and embraced the idea of learning more about each other to make things better in the school.
“It’s been really cool working with the students,” Rabenda said. “I’ve been very impressed with the conversations that we have had.”
As February approached, the students told Rabenda and Edwards that they wanted to do something special for Black History Month. For the past seven years, the high school has teamed up with local government officials to run a special event at the end of February to discuss and honor the significance of black history.
Since the event could not happen this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the students thought a good alternative would be holding conversations on different topics in honor of Black History Month for people in the community to attend virtually.
The students proposed a list of eight topics they felt are important to have breakout sessions on and the event came to fruition, as Edwards said.
“They took the ball and ran with it,” Edwards said.
“They picked very important topics to have conversations on after 2020,” Rabenda added.
The topics will range from The Impact of Social Media on Social Justice and Student Experiences at Bordentown Regional High School to Engaging in Difficult Conversations and Activism & Civic Engagement.
The first two sessions held on Feb. 2 and 4 centered around topics such as Black Interests in the Community and Implicit Bias.
Each session included special guest speakers leading the conversation. Bordentown alumni Sidney Tucker, Ifeoma Eleazu and Dominique Pierson each spoke during the Black Interests in the Community about getting involved in different engagements to spread awareness of the African American community.
Pierson helped set up one of the Black Lives Matter protests in Bordentown this past summer with the organization Building Bridges.
Rabenda adds Student Voices plans on inviting more alumni for future sessions.
Student Voices also had Bordentown Township Chief of Police Brian Pesce speak during the first two conversations and had a question-and-answer session afterward.
Edwards thought the forum between Pesce and the students went very well and that it is a step in helping to bridge the gap between the community and the police department.
“I think the kids seeing Chief Pesce and other policemen as human beings as well was big for them,” Edwards said. “We’re just laying the groundwork.”
As a graduate of the high school himself, Edwards is very proud of the students involved with Student Voices for wanting to bring up topics about race and social justice to the faculty and the community.
Edwards has enjoyed being part of the group conversations the last few months and said it has helped everyone see things from another perspective.
“I think this group has a chance to make an impact on this whole community,” Edwards said. “I’m excited to see what the kids have to say and how we can improve on those conversations.”