Eight members of Shaker Forum, an action and discussion group, joined other area high schools at Siena College’s 10th annual STOP Conference (Students Together Opposing Prejudice) on Jan. 9. Shaker Forum focuses on volunteerism, as well as ways to help the school community. The small club now has its sights set on making a big difference in the high school.
“We learned that we have more in common with other high schools than we think,” said Sara Allocoo, a member of Shaker Forum. “We were able to break off into small groups with those other schools and talk about situations and problems that have been occurring in our high schools. We realized that even though we are all different ages and come from different backgrounds, we really are united through the situations we have experienced.”
Alloco and other students attended the leadership conference with Shaker High School Social Studies teacher Saskia Dolan and Social Studies Supervisor Robert Pollaro. The conference’s goal every year is to empower students to stand up to intolerance and violence in their schools.
“It made us understand how much people have to go through everyday to be themselves,” said Alloco. “It was eye-opening. We realized that in order to break down the walls, we all need to understand we all have something in common.”
During the conference, students were divided into small groups led by facilitators from the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute. Keeping that format in mind, Allocco and her fellow Shaker Forum members have made it a goal to create a special event at the high school as part of the anti-bullying initiative. Their first step will be to survey the entire school about what students are interested in discussing or need help with. With the goal of collaborating with other clubs, Shaker Forum would like to mirror the STOP conference inside their own school. While it’s a big undertaking, Allocco says they feel it’s possible.
“At the conference, they really stressed that it doesn’t matter if you’re a student body of eight kids, 10 kids, or 100 kids. One person can still make a difference and that’s the most important thing.”
“I feel everyone had something really meaningful that they took away from the conference,” added Saskia Dolan. “What I am hoping is that this year, we can make a PSA about bullying or do a small event after school about diversity awareness. Even if it’s a small step this year, hopefully it will lead to a bigger step next year.”