student leadership

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.

Director Dispatches Part One: Auditions & First Rehearsals

This post is by Meridian senior Yvonne, who will document her experience as a student director over the next several months.

Meridian’s plays have consisted of tragedies, romances, comedies, and political dramas, but I wanted to direct something that we’d never done before. I mean, I love suspenseful and thrilling stories, so I was confident that I wanted to direct a murder mystery.

I had a few scripts to choose from, such as The Bold, the Young, and the Murdered by Don Zolidis, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 by John Bishop, and Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring. Some plays were more comedic than they were suspenseful, others had a concerningly small list of characters, and some just didn’t click. However, there was one script that pulled me into its story. Making the set for this play, making scenes suspenseful and engaging, adding the right elements of comedy, choreographing physical scenes, and directing actors in general will be challenges for me. I thought, If I put on this play, I think I’d be proud of myself. Meridian’s 2016 spring play will be Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie.

At auditions, it was awesome to see both middle and high school students showing interest in the production, and they were even more exciting because every actor is so gifted and passionate. There were students who have never been in theatre before, but showed that they had great capabilities. My initial fears around directing were pushed aside, because this was a chance to work with Meridian’s talented and supportive actors. How could I be afraid of that?

Last Thursday, the actors finished their first read-through of the play. They seemed just as, or even more, excited about the script as I was. And ultimately, I think, the more excited a group of actors are about their play, the stronger their play will be. It’s such a privilege to work with these students, and to work behind the scenes with Humanities teachers Catherine and Nathan, and with my friends Emmanuel, Sabina, and Haben, who will be helping me direct whenever they have a chance.

I’m getting a good feeling from all of this. There are so many exciting things happening right now. Even though things will be challenging in the moment, I think they will be worth it.

Meridian's First Student-Directed Play

Students have always been a major part of generating Meridian's theater productions, but this year two seniors, Juliette and Lili, took on the direction of our spring play. They chose John Cariani's Almost, Maine, which features an intrepid and awkward group of small-town characters who grapple with love and heartache over the course of just one night. Juliette and Lili were immediately drawn to the play's awkward charm when they read it aloud together, and directing proved to be a wonderful and rewarding challenge. As they wrote in the program, "We struggled at first to think of ourselves as authority figures, and had to learn quickly to assert ourselves and establish our vision for the show. Our cast has done an amazing job of sticking with us, and their patience and hard work played a huge role in getting this show off the ground. We cannot thank them enough for giving us this opportunity, and for making our final show at Meridian such an incredibly rewarding experience." 

Congratulations on a fantastic production, Juliette and Lili!