Juniors propose change through SOI Action Plans


This week, members of the junior class submitted their finalized Seminar on Identity (SOI) Action Plan projects, a process that culminated in student-written policy memos that aim to improve parts of the school. 

The objective of the project was for each student to “consider [themselves] as an equity consultancy tasked with identifying ways our school can become more inclusive of all students and stakeholders,” according to the project instructions. 

 “[The project] walks students through the process of first identifying a problem, providing data that proves the problem is really a problem, thinking critically about who is needed on board and why it is important to connect with them, then creating change,” Head of Upper Division, Dr. Jessica Levenstein said. “Seminar on Identity is inspiring people to be agents of change,” she said.

Acting Director of the Office for Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE) Ronald Taylor designed this year’s project as the capstone for SOI, he said. “The action project takes the learning and makes it applicable, as opposed to allowing it to sit in isolation,” he wrote. After the proposals were submitted, Taylor and Levenstein read through each one and felt inspired by the plans that these students created. 

In Ryan Finlay’s (11) finalized project proposal, he asked the administration to create a “prayer room,” a physical space within the school that would allow students to practice their religions during the day. Right now, there is no location in the school dedicated to practicing one’s religion, Finlay said. Finlay spent around three to four SOI periods compiling a rubric to outline their plans for a “prayer room” with his three partners. 

Joaquin Ramirez Villarreal’s (11) Action Plan proposed ways to increase the diversity of political opinions at the school, he said. For example, his group suggested that the Speaker Series incorporate more diverse viewpoints, he said. By doing so, students would feel comfortable presenting their point of view without being shamed, he said. Villarreal’s group came up with the proposal’s idea after members of the group felt like they were unable to share personal opinions that could be deemed controversial, Villarreal said. 

In Annelise Jones (11) and Alex Rosenblatt’s (11) action plan, they asked the school to incorporate more forms of LGBTQ+ education into the school’s history and health curriculums, Jones said. “A lot of times [LGBTQ+ history] is only taught in elective history courses and not in general courses,” Jones said. As a result, many LGBTQ students feel like there is a lack of education on the subject, she said. 

To further expand the diversity of the school’s history curriculum, Jaiden Wilson (11) advocated for the dedication of a larger portion of the mandated history curriculum to include Asian-American history, she said. Only some of the electives, such as Comparative Race and Ethnicity, shine a light on Asian history, she said.

Taylor incorporated the SOI Action Plan project into the curriculum because of its success when he originally initiated it at Syracuse University. “The project was transformational then because I had a class of 20 students, who did a much deeper project sequence than SOI, produce amazing projects on things like restructuring the United States History course to focus on the missing voices opposed to the present voices,” he wrote. Taylor hopes that the project will help students gain a sense of agency in their school community.

“The world has a lot of problems, [but] you can be part of the solution if you use your resources well,” Levenstein said. This project gives students the opportunity to have a step-by-step route on how to create change, she said. “Even if you are young, you are never powerless.”