Students flex their discussion muscles in a forum on diversity and identity
After weeks of spending Flex period doing homework, taking tests, and getting help from teachers, students finally had an opportunity to discuss hot topics in and around campus.
During Flex on Wednesday, November 8, AHS hosted its first student forum in Theater 50, which centered around diversity and cultural identity. One of the goals of the forum was to foster mutual respect and awareness, allowing people to contribute their ideas on certain topics in a safe environment.
“I’ve always been a fan of discussing ‘taboo’ or ‘controversial’ topics,” said Alina Reyes (12), one of the presenters at the forum. “I felt like being a speaker would allow me to hear lots of different viewpoints and experiences.”
Fremont Union School District released guidelines earlier in the school year for identity-related discussions to be implemented in all schools, but AHS Leadership had come up with the idea for the forums before that.
“I wanted to do something philosophical [for the forum], like a socratic seminar,” ASB Chief Justice Branden Bayani (12) said. “But the district wanted more of one that focused on students’ thoughts and feelings.”
Nevertheless, the speakers did a good job of keeping the discussion open and flexible for all students.
“We wanted to focus the discussion on the attendees and let them take the conversation where they felt it should go,” said Reyes.
There was definitely room for students to be creative in their answers to questions asked during the forum. They left impressed and fulfilled by the experience.
“It was really interactive and cool,” said Richa Puranik (11). “I got to experience a lot of opinions that I didn’t know were present at our school.”
Though several students attended the forum and most participated, not all of them shared their ideas equally.
“I remained pretty quiet because I was kind of neutral on the topics we discussed,” Christine Li (11) said. “But the environment was really respectful and I wouldn’t have a problem speaking up if I wanted to.”
As the period progressed, students felt more at ease in the forum and found topics that they were eager to give input on.
“There were more people opening up as time passed and that was really cool to see,” said Reyes. “I feel that open forums at American will have a promising future, and we will be able to raise awareness about many other topics going on in our community.” —