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Taking Education to the Polls: One Student’s Experience Leading in Local Politics

By Rhys, a 9th grader

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November 6th marked an important day for transgender people across the state of Massachusetts. Ballot Question 3 gave voters the power – for the first time in a statewide election – to decide whether or not transgender people had the right to basic protections like using the bathroom that best matches their gender identity, get access to jobs, hotels, restaurants, and even healthcare. As a non-binary identifying 9th grader, I think it’s needless to say that this vote mattered to me – a lot.

I’ve always had a passion for treating humans equally. This has been both a wonderful strength, but also one of my biggest downfalls, as I can sometimes get hung up on things that aren’t really worth my time in the long run. It was this awesome, and sometimes illogical power that kept me going throughout this fall while working on a political campaign while balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

Funnily enough, this whole experience for me started through school. In a project meant to “expose you [the students] to what it means to organize – what it actually feels and looks like,” according to Nathan, my teacher at the time, I found myself at a phonebank in the Keshet offices in the Brewery Complex, only a 5 minute walk from my school. At first, I was surprised to see how close to me something like this was – some preconceived notion told me that I would have to travel a significant distance to participate in something like this. That notion, as with many of my other expectations, turned out to be completely wrong, and I think that this physical ease is what kept me going back throughout the summer. The costs of going to a location and phone banking was more than worth the benefit that I, and other transgender people, now still have – basic human rights.

The true test of my dedication to the cause – and to my own inner morals – came only a month before the election. One of the field organizers asked me if I was willing to be on the leadership team for one of the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) locations. For context, GOTV is the last push in the final four days of the campaign to work to get voters out to the polls on election day. Leading one of these sites is like running a mini campaign office – it’s a huge responsibility, and looking back I’m so thankful for being given that opportunity by the campaign, and by Meridian, who granted me three days off from school to pursue this job.

As we all now know, Question 3 passed decisively. While I in no way mean to downplay the result that was achieved on election day, personally, it mattered less to me whether or not we won. I look back at that experience as an incredible learning opportunity. What I learned about political organizing, communication, team building, and my own limits have a similar long term significance for me. Of course my life would have changed with the other possible outcome on November 6th, but even with no legislative change in my home state, I still gained more than I ever would have expected doing this work.

This inspiration continued for me after the campaign ended, even on the same issue. The Friday after the election, I presented an abridged training taken from folx within the campaign to try to make Meridian a safer space for transgender students. My aim, of course, was to make the school a safer space for all, though most of what I focused on was with transgender students and teachers in mind. If I cultivated one primary value from this experience, it would be to never give up, and never let down my pressure to achieve what’s right.

“School Without the ‘School’ Thing”: Our 2016 Becket Trip

Written by Division I Media & Journalism reporters Elliot Ure and Jesse Eliot

At the beginning of every school year, all Meridian students go to Camp Becket in Western Massachusetts for two days and one night. The tradition was started with the intention of building community each fall, and it has been going on for seven years. During the day, activity groups do fun games with names like Alpha Beta and Jedi Juice, and at night everyone participates in what is known as “S'mores Fest.” At S’mores Fest, as readers might guess, students eat s’mores and play music around a campfire. On the last day, we play big group activities and take an all-school photo.

Going to Becket is useful for both new and returning students. We interviewed a variety of students and faculty, and both those who have gone for many years and those who are new to Becket had fun and thought it was a good community building experience. Josh Abrams, Head of School, said “My favorite memory at Becket was our opening group building activities.” The majority of our interviewees agreed that they felt closer to fellow Meridianites after our trip to Becket, including new MST teacher Jonathan Cannon, who said, “I think that it's great that we were spending time together as a school not doing ‘school’ thing.” Even though he’s known many of them for years, Josh even agreed that he felt closer to the students, saying, “I think it is a really good use of our time.” The one thing that people didn’t seem to like was the food, but hopefully S’mores Fest made up for that!

 

Students and faculty adventure at Becket!

On September 21st, we voyaged off on our annual student and faculty trip to Becket, Massachusetts for a few days of outdoor fun and adventure. Students scaled high ropes courses, sailed down zip lines, engaged in group problem-solving, canoed, hiked, learned about local ecology, and spent an evening around a campfire. (S’mores were on the docket as usual, along with fire-toasted Pop Tarts for the brave of heart and strong of stomach.)
Every fall, the trip gives Meridian a chance to re-unify after the summer, and new students have the opportunity to fully bond with their peers outside of the classroom. Whether it was the crisp fall foliage, the fun and supportive leaders, or the evening in the cabins playing cards and relaxing, many students reported that this was their favorite Becket trip yet.

Sophomores and Juniors Travel to Ecuador!

In April, 10th and 11th graders traveled to Ecuador on a 10-day service, language, and cultural immersion trip. The group visited Salinas de Bolivar, a town of approximately 1,100 people, where they participated in a number of cooperatives. Alongside locals, students worked for three days making cheese and chocolate, sorting local mushrooms, terracing a garden, and taking part in other needed tasks. 

Students also traveled to the Mindo Cloud Forest, a nonprofit conservation organization that works to protect critically endangered natural habitat in Ecuador. As Spanish teacher Sara McDonald wrote, "We were enamored by the reserve, its sights and sounds, as well as learning about the flora and fauna of Milpe. Our peaceful walk provided us many opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the land's biodiversity." 

When they returned, students produced videos about their experience to share with the Meridian community. Watch one of their videos below!