List of 20 news stories.

  • Don’t Say Hope: Why “Don’t Say Gay” Bills Are a National Mental Health Crisis

    Leila Metres '24
    On March 28, 2022, I opened Instagram on my bus ride to school and was confronted with an image of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signing HB 1557 - the “Don’t Say Gay” bill - into law. I remember feeling my stomach drop and being pulled into a whirlwind of emotion. I couldn’t believe that so many people had approved of this bill that it was actually becoming law, and I was beyond angry that DeSantis and the other adults in power in Florida could be so insensitive and ignorant. But above all else, I felt a deep sense of heartache for Florida’s children.
    Among other things, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill prohibits the instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools from grades K-3. While this bill primarily targets the first four years of school, it also states that the bill covers all discussion of LGBTQ topics that are not deemed age-appropriate. Therefore, this bill essentially has the potential to severely affect children’s mental health throughout all grades of school.
    As someone who realized they were queer at a very young age, hearing about this bill being signed into law struck a chord with me. Throughout my childhood, LGBTQ topics were rarely ever discussed. When I started having feelings for other girls, I was about 9 years old. I felt genuinely disgusted at myself. I was anxious and scared about what liking girls would mean for my future. I knew what the words gay and lesbian meant, but I didn’t know that there were any other options. I knew that certain people weren’t straight, but I never thought that I could be one of “them.” Queerness was taboo in my childhood, and it took me years to become fully accepting of my own LGBTQ identity.
    In 7th grade, I transferred into a Catholic school. I had become much more open about speaking about my experiences as a lesbian by that point, but my new school’s environment was very difficult for me to navigate. On the best days, the teachers at the school were silent about LGBTQ topics in the classroom. On the worst days, my classmates were outwardly homophobic, and no administrative steps were taken to change their behavior. My newfound confidence in my identity as a queer person was met by rumors, judgment, and hate speech from my cishet peers, and I had little support from the school in that aspect of my life. My mental health dropped considerably after I started going there, and I began to experience depression for the first time in my life.
    Eventually, I wrote an essay to my principal proposing that I start a Junior High Gay-Straight Alliance as a measure to build community and to take action against homophobia and transphobia in the school. I was immediately shot down and told that LGBTQ topics were not to be discussed in K-8 schools and that the school can’t sanction anything that’s centered on sex. To this day, I can’t remember a time when I felt as isolated and dismissed as I did at that moment. I was 13 years old. I wasn’t trying to indoctrinate anyone or introduce sexuality to young children. I was trying to carve a safe space for myself and other queer students in the oppressive landscape of a Catholic school.
    When politicians spit phrases like “keeping our children safe” and “making sure education is age-appropriate,” I’m taken straight back to one of the darkest moments of my life. I was very lucky to have a small support system of family and friends at the school, but many children are not that fortunate. Even with the assets I had, I still found myself losing my sense of purpose and joy in school. My mental health spiraled further and further, and it undeniably would have been even more impacted had I not had my own support system.
    The “Don’t Say Gay” bill doesn’t just mean LGBTQ issues can’t be a part of formal education in schools. It means young queer students and children of LGBTQ parents are being taught that their identities are something to whisper about, to be ashamed of. It means straight and cisgender students aren’t being educated on how to respect other people. It doesn’t just mean “don’t say gay,” it means don’t say love and family can look many different ways. It means don’t say dignity for trans and gender non-conforming youth who simply want to be addressed correctly. It means don’t say hope for children like me, who couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
    At the end of the day, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is not simply a political tactic. It represents a national mental health crisis. Since I started high school in an LGBTQ-accepting school where LGBTQ issues are discussed and anti-discrimination measures are taken, my depression has decreased significantly. I’m excited to go to school again, and I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders for the first time in years. I still have moments of depression and anxiety from time to time, but I’ve been able to develop healthy coping mechanisms with support from my community.
    My experience is just one story, but it’s a story that has been told over and over throughout the years. Queer children deserve to feel safe and heard for who they are and to have access to the same mental health support as their cishet peers. The first step in this direction is ensuring that school environments provide diversity education and an inclusive curriculum, because as illustrated by the results of GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, “access to an inclusive curriculum was related to greater feelings of school belonging, higher self-esteem, and lower depression among the LGBTQ students.” In addition, legislative action needs to be taken in order to truly protect children in schools - not from some LGBTQ agenda, but from a never-ending loop of silence that fosters misinformation and anti-LGBTQ sentiment and breeds mental health issues in students. 
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  • Jewish Heritage Month

    Sarah Chernoff
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  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

    Kevin Moy
    Author’s note: This is an updated version of a piece originally written for and read aloud at the rally in spring 2021 organized by the Hawken Upper School Asian affinity group in response to the recent rise in Asian hate crimes and the Atlanta spa shootings. 
    Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li - these were some of my earliest memories of seeing someone who looked like me on my TV screen. My father shared his appreciation of martial arts movies with me at an early age, and I continue today to have a deep love for the genre. I was too young at the time to understand the power of media portrayals of Asians, but I remember warming up before a game with my town youth soccer team when a white teammate of mine casually asked me if I knew karate. I immediately brushed him off and said no, but that moment still sticks with me. That question reduced me down to my appearance, and I realized that my black hair and small eyes communicated something about me that wasn’t true. I started to feel a strange love-hate relationship with my favorite martial arts films. As empowering as it was to see faces like mine, I felt constricted and defined by something beyond my control. 
    As I got older, I began to take more notice of the limitations of Asian representation in the American shows and movies I watched. First, Asians were never cast in lead roles or part of the main cast. You would occasionally see them for a scene or two, with only a few lines if any - and usually when their racial identity served the purpose of the plot. For example, I think of how almost every police procedural show, like any of the iterations of Law and Order, has an episode where the main characters have to investigate and explore the seedy underbelly of a city’s Chinatown, and unfortunately that would be only one of the few times I would see Asian characters. And of course, those characters fit the usual roles. In that Chinatown episode, you’re bound to see some Asian sex workers, aligning with the pattern of Asian female characters often portrayed as exotic and submissive, a stereotype most infamously reinforced by Vietnam War set movies like Full Metal Jacket. In addition to them being two-dimensional kung fu experts, Asian males have also been cast as socially awkward and emasculated nerds, either asexual or just non-desirable, best exemplified by the character of Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles. Another example is Jet Li in the 2000 film, Romeo Must Die, where he and R&B star Aaliyah are supposed to be the romantic leads but get no scenes of intimacy through the entire movie, not even one kiss!
    However, there were a few exceptions during my teenage years, and for me, two movies really stood out for how they portrayed Asians, specifically young Asian American males. The first is Better Luck Tomorrow, in which a group of Asian American high school friends, who check every box on the model minority checklist with their academic successes and overloaded extracurricular schedules, decide to start acting out against the perfectionism that had been ingrained into their lives and begin committing an escalating series of crimes. The second is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The titular characters, played by John Cho and Kal Penn, wrestle with challenges of the Asian American experience, for Harold struggles to speak out at his office, surrounded by overconfident and demeaning white peers, while Kumar tries to find his own desires and motivation for his future while being pressured by his parents to become a doctor. All the while, the movie is also a buddy-road trip-stoner comedy, a genre usually reserved for non-Asian actors (I will take this moment to acknowledge that Tommy Chong is half-Chinese!). Though I did not consider going into a life of crime or experience wacky adventures in pursuit of getting burgers from White Castle, for the first time, I saw characters that felt incredibly relatable.
    Progress has been slow, but things have gotten better in recent years. We now have Asians in romantic comedies like Crazy Rich Asians and Always Be My Maybe and in Marvel superhero movies like Shang-Chi and Eternals. Having more Asians, and more individuals from other underrepresented groups for that matter, isn’t just a numbers thing, but it ultimately allows for better storytelling. When there are few, every Asian character must carry the burden and expectations of being the sole voice of an entire people, and this limits them. When there are many, Asian characters can transcend those limitations to be whatever the story needs them to be - the witty best friend, the groan-inducing goofy parent, the complicated high school teen, or the gorgeous lead of a rom-com. They can carry their identity with them but no longer have to be defined by it.
    Two very recent films, Turning Red and Everything Everywhere All At Once, are excellent examples of this. Though both have Asians as main characters, their stories are not necessarily focused on their race, as one a story of a young girl navigating new emotions and relationships with friends and family as she enters adolescence and the other about a woman encountering a mid-life crisis while learning that she may be the one to save the entire multiverse. These plots aren’t dependent on the characters being Asian; however, both movies integrate their Asian identities into the stories so that who they are still matters.
    I hope the financial and critical success of these recent releases reminds the movie industry and major media companies that they can only benefit from greater diversity in the content they make. But most importantly, diversity benefits the young viewers, whoever they may be, just trying to find a piece of themselves reflected back to them on a screen. 
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  • National Arab Heritage Month

    Sarah Fares '22
    Being raised by secular Arab immigrants has taught me that the voice of the liberal Arab has been extinguished in today’s media and society, and growing up I was determined to find my place in the community. Eager to explore my identity at Hawken, I joined the Arab American affinity group. The deep conversations, quiet moments of reflection, and funny stories we told always brought me peace and joy.

    As I grew, so did my role in the affinity group. In my sophomore year, I was elected the new leader. I noticed a decline in membership and began working to expand our community. To kick-start this process, I created several projects: I wanted to have Middle Eastern representation somewhere in our curriculum, and I wanted to celebrate my heritage with the Hawken at-large community. While you may sit there and think to yourself, “Um, Sarah that’s two things,” but they turned out to be significantly easier said than done.

    Now, as a senior, I can confidently say that I have made quite a dent in this small but mighty list. I created a course proposal for a Middle East Studies 9th-grade humanities class, which was recently approved and introduced to students; furthermore, I coordinated a National Arab Heritage month celebration. But I didn’t want this to be just any celebration. I wanted to bring in students from neighboring schools that shared my eagerness to discuss our bond of heritage and to build a sense of pride and peace for our identities. I think that in seeing the decline in membership, I realized that the issue wasn’t a lack of Middle Eastern Hawken students at Hawken, but rather a surplus of fear and a deficit of courage to share and to self-explore. In this celebration, I wanted to show my community that there are people brave enough to talk, and that it is a safe space for whomever that may be. Moreover, I believe there is power in listening; that not all of us are ready to talk, and that that’s okay.

    On Wednesday, April 6, the virtual event took place. I am proud of how far the Arab American Affinity Group, and know that there is no way I could’ve done it without my amazing classmates and the support of Ms. Brennan, Ms. Bowen, and many others.
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  • Mastery School Master Class: Watch the Yard!

    Ashley Waldorf
    After an intense crediting week, Mastery School students were eager to engage in fun and meaningful learning and social experiences. During the week of February 14, the entire student community participated in the Master Class Series hosted by Mastery School community partners. At the end of the week, students showcased their learning to faculty, partners, and peers. 
    One of the opportunities and highlights of the series was the Watch the Yard! HBCU Information and Dance Workshop. Students learned about the rich legacy and academic achievement of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) from Upper School Director of DEIJ and Howard University alum Aisha Bowen and MSH Director of Admission and Community Partnerships and Bethune-Cookman University alumna Rasa Drane. They then participated in a step and dance workshop hosted by Buck Out Cleveland and supported by Janae Peters, MSH founding faculty member.

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  • Black History Month Tribute – Recognizing the 60th Anniversary of Charles Jordan, the first black student to enroll at Hawken

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  • Holocaust Day of Remembrance

    Greg Marmaros
    Each year on January 27, our world comes together to commemorate the millions of victims of the Holocaust who suffered and died at the hands of a brutal Nazi regime. Proclaimed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, January 7 marks that day in 1945 when the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by Soviet troops.
    Given that the Holocaust is one of the darkest and most horrifying periods in history, it is a day that can never be forgotten. January 27 provides a designated time for the world to reflect and remember the atrocities suffered by innocent men, women, and children in the face of indescribable hate and brutality. Over six million Jews were murdered along with millions of others, including those who were disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, LGBTQ people, and more. Why were these particular groups of people victims of such oppression and persecution? How was such indescribable hate allowed to survive?
    While many people around the world acknowledge this day of remembrance to honor the memory of those persecuted and continue to stand up against hatred and bigotry, for me it is a personal matter as well. As a Jew, I have heard the stories of family members who experienced the nightmare of the Holocaust firsthand. It is unfathomable for me to imagine what they suffered. My great grandfather, Harry Marmaros of Hungary, lost his entire family - parents, brothers, sisters. Navigating such a huge loss and still maintaining the will and resilience to survive shows incredible strength and resilience. Even in the midst of such tragedy, however, one of his cousins, Gita Berkowitz, survived. In the spring of 1944, Gita, at the age of 17, was deported to Auschwitz along with her entire family. Upon arrival, her mother, sisters, and younger brother were murdered. Gita managed to escape death by running under the legs of “Angel of Death,” SS Officer Dr. Josef Mengel, to another line of the more “fit.” She worked in a German munition factory and was moved to several camps. At the end of the war, she returned to her hometown, where she met and married Henry Feurwanger, who sadly had lost his parents and three of his siblings during the Holocaust. 
    As the victims of the Holocaust are remembered, I feel it is important to point out that in the face of such terror, the Jews did fight back. Through active resistance, Jews developed underground movements in the ghettos to organize uprisings and attempt to break out. They passively resisted by demonstrating their resilience and attempting to maintain their human dignity under the worst of conditions.
    When I visited Israel a while back, I took a trip to Yad Vashem, the museum that serves as Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is an overwhelming experience, as it feels like one is actually transported back to that time. The stories, pictures, documents, and exhibits preserve the memory of those murdered as well as those who fought back against the Nazi brutality. It also displays the good side of humanity through stories of the Gentiles who risked their lives to aid Jews in need. In addition, the museum aims to educate and provide research regarding genocide with the objective of preventing horrific events like this from happening in the future.
    Yet, even in the aftermath of such evil, hate crimes continue to flood news stories and headlines. A recent 2021 CNN article reported that US hate crimes surged to the highest levels in 12 years. Victims reported they were targeted due to their race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. 
    As International Holocaust Memorial Day approaches, everyone must do their part to remove hate, bigotry, injustice, and intolerance from our society. The Holocaust is a very grim reminder of what horrors can ensue from oppression and hate. It is important to make an effort to be kind; speak up if someone is being bullied or oppressed; light a candle in memory of all who have been victimized because of race, sex, disability; and say a prayer. All of these are ways to honor those whose lives have been lost in the Holocaust. We must never forget.
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  • Reflection on MLK Day

    Dr. Michelle Harris
    Celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr have taken many forms over my lifetime. I started high school only four years after Dr. King's assassination. So in those days, before a formal national holiday, celebrations took the form of watching and reliving his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and singing songs of solidarity and hope.
    But what resonates most for me is a clear memory from my childhood of watching civil rights marches on TV, peaceful sit-ins, and horrifying images of violence. Our nation had been rocked by various forms of upheaval and loss during that time. We reeled and lurched as we struggled with the type of disruption that occurs when there is conflict between maintaining the status quo and dismantling broad and systemic inequities. I have a specific memory from the '60s of my father taking me to a church in Indianapolis, my hometown, to see long lines of civil rights marchers load busses for a march in Washington, D.C. We did not know, then, that that march would become one of the hallmarks of civil rights around the world. It was late at night, noisy, and smoke from the bus exhaust sat heavy in the air. My father and I watched in silence as one bus after another pulled away and headed for Washington DC, uncertain about what awaited them. As we drove back home, my father said we did a good and important thing that night by supporting those courageous people who were representing America by fighting for the rights of all people. There was much to think about, and we drove the rest of the way home in silence.
    As I think about the world that Hawken Middle School students are experiencing today, I consider Hawken's eighth Principle: We appreciate difference and individuality and embrace diversity in our community. We work to offer the members of our community time and space to add their voices to a constructive dialogue about civility. We explicitly acknowledge the need to honor and support one another's experience and identity, even if we are not always sure how to make that happen. We remind ourselves that we all have blind spots and work to ensure that those biases do not inadvertently marginalize our students' and colleagues' experiences. 
    Much has changed since that memorable car ride with my father in the '60s. And although significant challenges remain, I have hope and confidence that within the imperfect and complicated world in which we live, we will strive for kindness and full acceptance of one another. We will lean into gratitude and engage with one another with humility, compassion, and acceptance. 
    Sometimes this work is easy, and sometimes it tugs and pokes and pulls at us in ways that are unsettling. Either way, it is incumbent upon us, each of us, to move forward and continue to challenge ourselves to listen, learn, examine where we stand, and always value one another.
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  • Holiday Reflections

    Hawken students reflect on an array of holiday traditions and celebrations that help bring light to the dark winter months.

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  • Villainization, Censorship, and Representation of the LGBTQ+ Community Over the Years

    Nic Seelig
    In the last decade or so, there’s been a drastic increase in canonically LGBTQ+ characters in children's media, especially cartoons. Queerness and queer coded characters have existed for decades, the most iconic example being Bugs Bunny, but in recent years shows like The Owl House, Steven Universe, and The Legend of Korra have taken things in a different direction. Queer or queer coded characters have existed in children's cartoons for a long time, but recently there’s been a shift into positive representation, although there is still pushback and opposition. 

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  • Community Reflections: National Disability Awareness Month, Reflection 3

    An Interview with Jennifer Harrison                    
    “Something that I would want anyone to know about my family and my child - or anyone with disabilities or differences - is that they have a level of persistence and determination that the rest of us probably can’t understand,” says Jenn Harrison, interim assistant director of the Lower School.

    Harrison’s twelve-year-old daughter Elizabeth – whom she describes as “an incredibly observant, intense, and loyal kid who struggles with expressive language and conversation” - is on the autism spectrum. “She’s not a ‘go-with-the-flow’ kind of kid,” she adds. “She really, really likes structure and organization. She likes things to be predictable and forecasted, something which comes easily for me because I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years.”
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  • Community Reflections: National Disability Awareness Month, Reflection 2

    Deaf but Hearing Loud and Clear
    Tawana Dolman, program coordinator for DEIJ
    At the age of 13, an acoustic neuroma tumor ruptured my ear drum and caused a total loss of hearing in my right ear along with severe nerve damage. The odds of this particular kind of tumor growing in a 14-year-old girl were about one and 3 million - and four years later it grew back. Not only was I unable to hear, but the muscles in my face were dead, and I was unable to cry out of my right eye. I developed keloid skin on my neck and scalp, which stunted hair growth around the incision, and most of the cartilage and bone behind my ear had to be removed.  Scared, but still always the first to raise my hand in class, I graduated from high school a semester early with honors and a GPA of 4.2.
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  • Community Reflections: National Disability Awareness Month, Reflection 1

    Personal Disability: The Problem with Public Perception
    Garet Libbey, chief talent officer

    “You don’t have a disability. If someone is disabled, they are unable to do something. When has that ever been the case for you?”

    That was my husband’s response when I told him that I would be writing for the DEIJ blog about how my disability has shaped my personal and professional identity. He’s right in one sense: There’s very little that having just one hand prevents me from doing. I have always said that I have a physical disability but that I don’t consider myself disabled. For me, that label suggests that I am limited in some way. That is not how I see myself and has never been how I have seen myself.
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  • Ingenious, Indigenous Solutions to Modern Problems

    Jacob Kordeleski
    Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an alternative to Columbus Day and is celebrated by a growing number of institutions throughout the United States. The re-branding does not seek to diminish the significant role Columbus played in the history of the Americas, but rather to recognize and honor the various peoples that were “discovered” in the New World.

    October 12 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It comes rightly amidst a series of significant events involving our nation’s many indigenous communities. In July, the Cleveland Indians formally resolved to become the Cleveland Guardians, triggering celebration, controversy, and a public conversation involving seemingly every Ohio sports fan. August saw the premiere of the first-ever television program produced and cast entirely by American Indians. Lastly, and perhaps most amazing of all, just two weeks ago scientists announced the discovery of footprints pushing back the known habitation of North America nearly 10,000 years.

    As such, this October we are well-situated to reflect on ourselves, our society, and the indigenous history of our nation. Rather than advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day or discuss various issues, I want to take this opportunity to highlight much of the underappreciated genius found throughout our world’s indigenous communities. Here are three ways indigenous cultures do (or did) it better than our modern methods:

    1 – Fighting Fire with Fire
    Many have heard of the devastating forest fires of the Western U.S., seen photos of red skies filled with smoke and cinder, or even known someone who lost their home to a wildfire. Forest fires were not always the frightening wildfires of today but rather frequent, controlled purges of dangerous woodland.

    Controlled burns were heavily used by many native communities before a century-long ban by the U.S. Forest Service in the early 1900s. Combined with their shrewd logging, these efforts allowed indigenous Americans to transform wildfires into a more frequent but far less deadly problem for millennia. Foresters have recently come around, stating that cultural burns drastically reduce “fuel load,” the critical sum of burnable materials in our at-risk forests.

    More on indigenous fire management:

    2 – Stewards of Biodiversity
    Despite making up only about 5% of the population, indigenous communities shelter an astounding 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They achieve this by living minimally in their natural habitat. By sacrificing some comforts that we are familiar with such as lawns, land, and highways, indigenous groups typically create the most sustainable living environments on the planet. While the United States will never be an ultra-diverse rainforest, perhaps we can find ways to reintegrate the natural world into our cities once again.

    The Sapara of Ecuador, in their Yasuni National Park, co-exist with an estimated 1500 species of mammals, birds, fish, and frogs.

    More on biodiversity in indigenous land:
    3 – Feeding the World with Permaculture, Not Agriculture
    When it comes to feeding our planet, no one disagrees that modern machinery and farming methods allow just one laborer unparalleled efficiency and the ability to produce thousands of pounds of food. However, modern farming requires huge amounts of energy and fertilizer (a top-three producer of greenhouse gases in the United States). It also promotes “monoculture,” an unhealthy reliance on one species – such as BT Zea mays, or sweetcorn – with the potential to fail.

    Indigenous communities, and formerly most of the world before industrialization, instead practice what many biologists have called “permaculture.” Agriculture dedicates huge spaces to annual crops and prioritizes delivering food worldwide for profit. Permaculture cultivates a small but regenerative food forest, embeds a source of food in the local community, and creates more resilient crop species. For example, the Kenyah Dayak of Borneo have managed to sustain over a hundred species of trees, many food-bearing, in a single hectare of land.

    Three Keyah Dayak survey a forest in Borneo.

    More on indigenous food and Forest management:
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  • Hispanic Heritage Month

    Pedro Chiesa '22
    Pedro Chiesa is a current senior at the Gates Mills Campus, first generation Latino student, a leader of the Hispanic Affinity Group, a member of the policy-making Diversity Council, and a graduate of the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.
    I came to Hawken as a freshman. Toward the beginning of my time here, in Humanities 9, we developed our own identity wheel and categorized different pieces of ourselves within it, and then talked to others to understand the different pieces of their wheels. That experience is representative of many similar later experiences; the various opportunities at school that have pushed me to be a more understanding, inclusive, and equitable person.  
    A year prior to coming to Hawken, I had struggled as a student, even failing a class and occasionally getting into altercations with teachers and students. As a freshman in a new environment with new people, I had the opportunity to restart. The feeling of having a different cultural, environmental, and personal background from many of my peers was a challenge at times. But, as a result of being able to reintroduce myself, I began the process of creating a new model for myself of what type of student - and person - I could be. 
    The Hispanic Affinity Group was instrumental in that process. It helped me connect with my own cultural background which, for a variety of reasons, like going to predominantly white schools and knowing only a handful of Hispanics, I had failed to immerse myself in. Simply attending the meetings helped me find a stronger sense of self.
    Starting in my 10th grade year, at first, I was doubtful of how many people would show up and what degree of success the group would have. Being a new group, there was a lot to work out, and we had to establish what our meetings would look like. I also only knew maybe two or three Hispanic students who might show up. I was a little surprised to find a familiar community, make a handful of good friends, and reflect on and understand my own context and its implications on my life.
    Later I was asked to be a co-leader of the group with Gaby Montero, and we led our group with the support of Ms. Mihalski. Soon after, Yerko Sepúlveda joined our team. 
    Throughout high school, I’ve seen an increasing number of resources, time, and dedication to making Hawken more diverse. Consequently, the impact of this work shows up in my day-to-day life as a student: I see more Hispanic faculty, the increasing representation of Hispanics, and even spontaneous things like hearing people speak Spanish in the halls or seeing Yerko drink mate, a traditional South American tea, makes school feel homelike.
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  • Q & A with Aisha Bowen

    For the last three years, Aisha worked at Indianapolis Classical Schools, Riverside High School, first as a lead English teacher and, most recently, as dean of students. She also served as a specialist in racial equity and culturally responsive teaching for Indianapolis Classical Schools. Before that, Aisha was an out of school time program facilitator at Education Works in Philadelphia. Early in her career, she worked in South Africa as a research and development team member at the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy and as a teacher/volunteer at the Ikhaya Primary School. Aisha earned a B.A. in English and urban secondary education from Howard University and a M.S.Ed. in international education development from the University of Pennsylvania.
    How have your life and work experiences prepared you for your role as DEIJ director at Hawken?
    My preparation for DEIJ (unknowingly) began for me around the age of 8 when my younger brother Tre was born. Tre was born with cerebral palsy and autism, and I spent many years observing and supporting my mother in finding equitable ways to give Tre the quality of life and learning that he deserved. I saw how my hometown’s school system, health care providers, and government liaisons alike often treated my brother and family differently because we were African American and low income. I lived through that struggle for equitable treatment and support on behalf of my brother, and it lit a fire in me from a young age to be more attuned to the needs of folks who are marginalized.

    Outside of my upbringing, my tenure at Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania also provided ample opportunities for learning and practice that addressed marginalization and inequity on theoretical and practical levels. I have been blessed to be able to work in educational settings within communities in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, Newark, NJ, Cape Town, South Africa, and Indianapolis, Indiana designing solutions with students and families that address diversity, equity, and inclusion. As such, I am excited to bring these experiences to the beautiful city of Cleveland and dynamic Hawken community.

    Given that this is a relatively new position at the Upper School, what do you see as your greatest challenge(s)?
    In this new position, I love that there are so many spaces where the DEIJ office can provide support and partnership. As such, the greatest challenge (which is a positive one!) will be learning how to properly time based on the most poignant interests and needs of the Upper School community.

    What aspects of your job excite you the most?
    I am most excited for the opportunity to work with students and support them for making their visions for a more equitable and inclusive school community a reality.
    What drew you to the Hawken community and to this position?
    I was immediately drawn to Hawken due to this community’s open and forward commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. DEIJ is embedded in the ethos of Fair Play, and members of Hawken’s leadership team are fully committed to the work.  

    Who inspires you and why?
    The individual who inspires me the most is my mother. She is driven, loving, supportive, and doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to helping those she loves most. I strive to be as dependable as she is for all those I encounter.
    What do you like to do in your free time? What are you eager to explore in the Cleveland area?
    I am a reader and love to take time to delve into good books (currently I am reading a beautiful novel by Isabel Allende). Reading relaxes me and allows my mind to creatively flow. I am also an avid foodie and music lover; so if there’s a space with good food and good music, I’m in!
    What are 3 character traits that your friends would use to describe you?
    Responsible, caring, and driven

    What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
    I played club softball for 10 years of my life. At one point in time, my team was first in the U.S.!

    What’s something you’ve done that you will never do again?
    Cut my hair. I’m a naturalista and love letting my fro grow.

    What is your favorite book? Favorite movie?
    I am a lover of science fiction, so my favorite book is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Movies… not so much. If I watch Modern Family I’m more than a happy camper 😊.

    What is your guilty pleasure?
    Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.

    Name your favorite song or artist.
    R&B is my favorite genre of music, and SO MANY great artists live within that genre. If I had to pick ONE it would be Jasmine Sullivan.
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  • Belonging

    by Lou Salza

    “The past is never dead. It's not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity.
    Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations.
    William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
    “It may be easier to change the course of history than to change a history course in America’s High Schools.”
    Last year the public health crisis caused by the COVID pandemic exposed historical racial, social, political, and economic cracks in our society, causing disruptions that rumbled across Ohio and shook our nation and the world. We were confronted with the long-standing deterioration of our public health infrastructure and our unfair access to basic health care. We cannot avert our eyes from what we have witnessed. We cannot avoid our individual and collective responsibility as parents, educators, and engaged citizens to move our school, our community, and our society to greater levels of equity and Fair Play.  
    As I consider in which of Faulkner’s “webs” I “labor,” I find I have had to review, reflect on, reconsider, and revise what I think and understand about myself, about my role as an educator, and about the American history I was taught in high school.  One web has certainly been my struggle to learn to read as a child with dyslexia. All schools weave webs of design, policy, expectation, and practice. Some children climb quickly and efficiently up and over the web. Others get trapped, caught, and constrained by their struggles with reading, their awareness of the racism in their environment, their sense of being different in some way. These constraints then spill over and compromise other areas of endeavor - their social lives, their sense of self and emotional wellness, and perhaps most importantly, their sense of belonging. Serving children and families who have been trapped in a web of illiteracy and labeled “learning disabled” due to learning differences became my personal and professional journey for over 45 years. It has been a journey toward belonging.
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  • Juneteenth

    By Hawken's DEIJ Team
    On June 19, 1865 (what we now refer to as “Juneteenth”) Mayor General Gordon Granger announced that enslaved people of African descent in Galveston, TX would be freed in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln issued two and a half years prior in 1863. Texas officially recognized this day as a holiday in 1980, and President Joe Biden recently signed a bill making it a federal holiday.

    This Juneteenth, let us remember the lives taken and families separated by the dehumanizing institution of chatel slavery. Let us also remember the strength and courage of those who boldly fought to resist enslavement and sought liberation. May this important day remind us to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed and to use our collective voices to uplift human dignity.  

    Learn more about Juneteenth from the following resources:
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  • PRIDE is an Evolution

    By Dan Bobeczko
    June is PRIDE month. What exactly does that mean though? For some, PRIDE is a time to remember the historical struggles of those in the LGBTQ+ community: the hiding, persecution, and stigma. For some, PRIDE is an analysis of political progress from Stonewall to Marriage Equality. Others will celebrate “coming out” and anniversaries, while some will remember those who have passed - having missed out on the opportunity to partake in a month of reflection and sharing. Each individual, whether a member of the community or an ally, comes to PRIDE at different stages of their journeys, with different lived experiences and different lenses, which makes celebrating PRIDE unique. PRIDE is an evolution.

    Having come out later in life, PRIDE for me was something that I observed from the sidelines, curious but cautious. Meeting my partner (now husband) and joining Cleveland’s Gay Men’s Chorus (the North Coast Men’s Chorus) was a way to slowly become involved in the community with greater opportunities to explore the facets that help make up PRIDE: historical perspectives, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging.

    PRIDE, for me, took on a deeper meaning in June of 2015 when Marriage Equality allowed me to propose after 15 years of partnership. Being afforded the same rights as all citizens was liberating and cause for long-awaited celebration. “Curious and cautious” gave way to “grateful and guarded.”

    Joining the Hawken family for the 2019-2020 school year was an enlightening experience. An LGBTQ+ Affinity Group and a schoolwide mission statement with a commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice provided a long-awaited personal and professional safe space that had been missing in my life. Participation in gatherings and activities with staff has widened my sphere of perspectives and experiences and has continued to build that sense of community and belonging - so much so that this is the first year I’ve felt comfortable enough to hang a PRIDE flag from our home! (*The one I ordered ended up being quite large - so it needed to be draped from a 2nd story window!) A post about it to a neighborhood Facebook group received over 250 likes - another reaffirming sign from another supportive community! While I may not be leading the parade, I’m slowly moving toward “excited and engaged!” PRIDE is an evolution!

    Dr. Bobeczko (left) served as the 2nd & 3rd Grade Remote Learning Coach this school year and will be co-teaching the 1st & 2nd Grade Multi-Age Class next year at the Lower School.
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  • Honor the Asian American Heritage Month

    By Yue Ming
    As May marks another commemoration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I must admit that this year feels different from most. Not only has a global pandemic changed our lives, it has also revealed long-standing, deeply-rooted racial and social inequities in our country. This year has also been marked by tragedy in Atlanta and Indianapolis, and these particular events of violence have hit particularly close to my heart. However, in light of these tragedies, the outpouring of support and inclusivity from the Hawken community reminds me that in the face of racially-targeted hate, we must speak louder in support of our community members of diverse backgrounds.
    I came to this country over 30 years ago with the hopes of pursuing a higher education and with the intention of eventually “fitting in” to American culture. Throughout the process of building my life in the United States and raising my family, I have integrated and blended Chinese culture, food, music, art, and especially language with my close friends, family, and community. I am proud to be able to share my experiences and my perspective in the safe, supportive community that Hawken is.
    I would like to share some photos below of me and my family enjoying life in the Bedoyan-Ming household!  
    Yue Ming, May 2021

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An independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school, toddler through grade 12

Lower & Middle Schools, 5000 Clubside Rd, Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Birchwood School of Hawken, 4400 West 140th Street, Cleveland, OH 44135 

Upper School, PO Box 8002 (12465 County Line Rd), Gates Mills, OH 44040
Mastery School of Hawken, 11025 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

Gries Center, 10823 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

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