VVS Student Solidarity ReflectionMarch 8, 2018
On a quiet mid-week morning, VVS students walked out of their morning classes as part of the national protest against gun violence and to rally in solidarity with those affected by all incidents of school violence. Students walked quietly and solemnly to the VVS Quad where they sat in silence, and were soon joined by a supportive faculty and staff.
Seventeen minutes of silence were observed, one for each of those who lost their life at the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. In a befitting requiem, the silence was filled with the sounds of birds tweeting, a woodpecker hammering, water tinkling, breezes gently blowing, and tears flowing.
You can watch the video here ….
Senior Raissa Gaju from Rwanda and Sophomore Gus Müller from California facilitated the sit in around the Quad, encouraging students to participate in bringing change to gun laws and assuring them that they had a voice regardless of their age or nationality. In doing so they would be upholding one of the VVS Principals: mindful of the importance of global citizenship and ready to practice its privileges and obligations.
When asked what inspired their action, Gus shared: “I had seen online that all students nationally were going to do a walkout on March 14 but since we aren’t at school on that date, I thought we should do it today. I would like to steer away from the word “walkout” because I believe what we did is more a “reflection”. Walkouts are used more for acts of anger rather than acts of compassion and empathy. And, because of that, the term that best fits what occurred today is reflection. I personally know what it is like to be hurt, not as much physically but mentally. I knew that those killed due to poor gun control have families who are in pain and sorrow. I knew that this community would be 100% willing to contribute to the silence in honor of those people. I also had read a few articles and seen ways to help those affected in the recent Florida shooting. For example sending physical letters to the students in Florida so they can see that people do care and are thinking about them. This inspired me to want to inspire the VVS community to reach out to those in pain. Although it may seem that we can’t do much, we can do the most with the smallest gesture. It reminds me of a quote from Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” That quote means so much to me and is directly connected to this small community. What happened today is not just thanks to me: it is thanks to those who came and showed how they truly felt.”
“The people in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda did not have anyone to advocate or listen to them, shared Raissa. There was nothing the outside world could do or did to help them, and millions of people were killed and left homeless, and families destroyed. My parents were victims of this. To think that today in 2018 when this type of violence is still going on, even in a country like America, we here at VVS can do something to stop it from happening as community,… is important to say.”
As the moment of silence came to an end, sharings were invited.
Junior, Rosie Chisolm, while noting the idyllic school environment, asked for assurance that VVS provide and share details for an emergency plan that would direct the community on what to do and where to go in unexpected and dangerous situations.
Head of School, Paul Amadio, responded that indeed the recent acts of school violence have prompted the school to reconsider its existing emergency plan and details would be shared with the community after Spring Break. “We don’t take lightly what you did today and as adults we feel honored and blessed to be with you,” he told the students speaking on behalf of faculty and staff. “I want you to know that we are taking steps so that we can inform, notify and find safe havens for us to go to in the event that something happens. I know it’s stressful to walk out of a class but I’m very proud of you all.”
Meg Haesloop, Director of Academics & College Counseling nudged students to action with a reminder that they can use their wallets and buying power to make purchases from only those companies whose stance on gun laws is aligned with their own.
Sophomore, Izzy Corrieri, boldly pointed out that while students may be young in age just now, they are the future generation and will one day sit on those seats of legislative power currently stalling democracy – and they will be bringing along their values with them to create change.
Shannon Jakes, Assistant Director of Admissions, shared that in addition to looking for government reforms, every day gives us the opportunity to practice non-violent communication and in so doing, lessen the likelihood of estranging people to the point where they act in violence. Gossiping, meanness, untruthfulness, judging, bullying, ostracizing, and not accepting someone for who they are, are all acts of violence in themselves. It lies within our own power to choose against these behaviors.
From its beginning, VVS has been a school devoted to global values, and it remains grounded upon Founder, Hamilton Warren’s statement of 1948:
“The nation, indeed the world, needs a school that will bring together children from many nations, many cultures, all races and religions, not simply to study and tolerate one another, but to learn from and celebrate their differences.”
As Verde Valley School graduates its students, it aspires to sending them out into the world as ethical individuals, possessed of a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, skilled in ways that will enable them to participate effectively in community building and decision making, appreciative of the necessity and value of physical work, open to the discovery and enduring satisfactions of artistic creation, knowledgeable about the depth and range of our shared cultural heritage, generous in spirit, mindful of the importance of world citizenship and ready to practice its privileges and obligations.
With these intentions and values, VVS is providing meaningful solutions to not only gun violence, but also social injustices and discriminations, through each of its students who step out into the world.
You can watch the video here ….