Mirman comes together on Peace and Social Justice Day

On Wednesday, May 17, the day began with excitement as students started to file in to the Jacquelyn Michelle Ross Auditorium for the weekly assembly. But this was no ordinary assembly: This was the Opening Ceremony for Mirman's third annual Peace and Social Justice Day (PSJ). With many students wearing t-shirts emblazoned with peace signs, tie-dye, hearts, slogans, and other representations peace and social justice spirit wear, the atmosphere felt celebratory, even as the community gathered together to face what can be a tough topic.

Luckily, the school community was all in good hands thanks to the year-long preparation efforts of the Student Diversity Leadership Council (SDLC). Earlier this year, these Seniors had attended the nationwide Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Atlanta, where they spent time exploring social identifiers and dialoguing on a number of topics related to inclusivity and equity. Since that time, they have dedicated lunches and personal time to planning the daylong PSJ agenda.

To kick off the assembly, Head of School Dan Vorenberg made some remarks about the importance of peace and social justice work in the Mirman community and beyond, reflecting on the lofty goals promised in the Declaration of Independence as well as the struggle of courageous activists to help make those goals a reality. "To lead this form of activism displays the highest form of character and leadership," he said of the SDLC cohort and the peers, faculty, and staff who assisted them in planning the day. More important than any individual award or grade, it is the desire to make a difference. I applaud these students for taking leadership here."

Following Vorenberg's remarks, the SDLC students organized an enlightening movement activity designed to provoke questions and challenge assumptions about social identifiers. First, while the Lower School was still in attendance, students raised their hands if they identified with certain statements; this was followed by a smaller gathering of Upper School and faculty/staff who were challenged to explore some of the same notions.
Students were asked to take a step inside the circle if they identified, for example, with one particular race. Some identifiers had to do with ability, others about socioeconomic status, and others still about religious celebrations. The activity was silent, with those inside and outside the circle instructed to reflect upon who was left on the edges and who was clustered in the middle. Afterwards, participants answered some guided questions from the student leaders.

"These questions raised a lot of emotions for me," shared US1 student Naalah C.

"I think we did this to learn more about our community, our friends, our school, and each other," observed US1 student Charlotte N.
Following the opening exercises, Upper School students dispersed to the workshops that they'd signed up for via the LEAP system. From challenging gender stereotypes to examining Islamophobia, Upper Schoolers enjoyed student-led discussions and activities that asked them to ponder some deep questions and engage in meaningful exchange, all around the themes of peace and social justice. A few faculty and staff members stepped in to led workshops as well, though by all accounts, the students were the stars of the show!
Following a panel discussion in the Upper School, Lower School workshops took place in the afternoon, with many Upper School workshops being re-tooled in a developmentally appropriate way to address some of the same issues with the younger grades.
"This was truly an impressive event for the whole Mirman community, especially since it really demonstrated the leadership of our US4 students and their ability to bring us all together, both young and old, students and faculty," said Director of Inclusivity and Equity Connie Chiu. "Seeing Upper School students dialogue and debate each other in constructive and healthy ways on complex topics around identity speaks volumes to the growth in students, especially in the social-emotional learning and inclusivity domains."

Following the day of workshops, the community gathered once again for a closing assembly in which Mr. Vorenberg applauded all the hard work that took place over the day. "But your work is not done," he said, encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to truly integrate the messages and lessons from PSJ into the classroom and beyond in their daily lives.

A panel of students gathered to share some of what they learned throughout the day, highlighting conversations on immigration, poverty, and more. Much as a Faculty/Student Q&A panel held in the Upper School showed a great deal of understanding and curiosity on these topics, this student-centered share out left all in attendance with the feeling that can only come from a day of teaching, learning, and living together with a common goal.

"I'm incredibly proud of the humor, positivity, and energy that SDLC students (and all involved faculty/staff) used in pulling off this conference day that highlighted the multiple perspectives and voices that make up our community," shared Ms. Chiu after the event.
A Horse With No Name No More
from the 2018-2019 Meridian 

After the school rebranded a few years ago, Athletic Director Angela Brown felt that something was missing. While new uniforms were donned for the first day of school, new signs were hung around campus, and a new website launched to accompany refreshed marketing materials, the font-forward design left something to be desired when it came to truly raising team spirit to the power of Mirman. 

In a school where more than half of the student body participates in some form of competitive athletics, and on a campus where a significant expansion created pristine courts and fields upon which one can cheer on several teams on any given day, Brown saw opportunity and sensed desire to elevate the program. After working with Jenn Salcido, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Noah Kaufman, Director of Advancement, the school’s branding was expanded to include a strong, confident (though K-8-appropriate) steed. New universal uniforms, sweatsuits, and swag followed suit. 

“It’s a truly exciting time for athletics at Mirman,” said Brown. “It’s a sense of pride that you can see and feel. It’s almost like we’ve arrived. You could have taken a snapshot of the students in their old uniforms, and then with their new ones with the names on the back. It’s a rallying cry. You can see the pride on their faces.”  

Finally, everyone could don uniforms featuring their own names writ large. Everyone except, of course, the horse. Everyone knew we had a mascot — you’d see the nameless Mustang trotted out for the occasional assembly or championship bout — but nobody really knew the mascot. 

What if the community could help change that? 

Last fall, Brown and her colleagues in the Physical Education department introduced a contest at an all-school assembly. The objective: not only to name the Mustang, but to tell the mascot’s story. Over the course of a 6-day cycle, ballots were collected from every grade level in both divisions. With Salcido’s help, Brown and Assistant to the Athletic Director Alyssa Woods tallied the results. 

The judges carefully considered the entries, assessing them on an unwritten rubric including points for overall catchiness, gender-neutrality, universal appeal, and other considerations. As the dust settled, one clear winner emerged: Rider. In retrospect, it seemed rather obvious. The school had only recently unveiled its Core Values (Responsibility, Integrity, Discovery, Empathy, and Resilience). And as equine monikers go, Rider makes a certain degree of sense. The name was revealed with much aplomb at an all-school assembly, with Rider trotting out on stage to show off a newly-minted personalized jersey. 

The winning entry belonged to Room 4L students Victoria A. and Amelie S., who soon revealed that they had a little help from their friends, specifically former Room 4L co-teacher and current Librarian Allison Sparks. 

“We had just had a community circle in class talking about the Core Values,” said Sparks. “This was something new to me as a new member of the Mirman community. When I asked the class out loud if they’d considered Rider for the Mustang name, a few of the students wanted to suggest it.” 

“I laughed it off and dismissed the idea,” Sparks admitted. “I thought that since it had come from an adult, it wouldn’t count. But when I saw how excited they were when they submitted it, I knew the name rang true. It really came out of an ‘a ha’ moment we had together as a class. 

“It relates so much to our school and Core Values and helps us make sure we’re always doing the right thing,” said Victoria A. of the new name. 

“It’s amazing to be part of our school history,” added Amelie S. 

The two girls, who themselves represent Mirman on the basketball court and soccer fields as part of the Room 4 teams, admitted that, like many great ideas, their first iteration didn’t ring quite as true. “I think we wanted to do mustard,” said Victoria. 

“Or mayonnaise,” said Amelie. 

As it turns out, most things do get better with teamwork. 

Like any ballot box, this one was not without its curiosities once opened up. Here were a few of the voting trends: 
  • More than a few students wanted to name the Mustang after themselves or their classmates 
  • One entry suggested “Vegan” 
  • “Uncle Grandpa” popped up more than a few times, much to the confusion of one judge. It was revealed upon further investigation that this is in fact an affectionate nickname for Coach Allen Foster. 
  • Regarding “The Mysterious Moose:” decidedly not a horse, but good alliteration. 

A Biography of Rider 
By Victoria A. and Amelie S., Room 4L 
(with editorial assistance from an anonymous magazine editor) 
Once upon a time, a beautiful horse was born. He* shook himself and stood up, curious about the world around him. He began to walk through the forest, stopping every so often to grab some fruit from a tree. After a while, he came upon a group of two little girls and their teacher walking through the woods.

“Hi horse! What’s your name?” the little girl asked. 

“I don’t have a name, actually. What’s yours?” the horse answered. 

“Woah, I can actually understand you,” said the little girl. “That’s so cool!” 

The girls and their teacher spoke with the horse a while longer, introducing themselves and getting to know each other. They wondered aloud why the horse didn’t have a name. 

“I just haven’t thought of one yet,” he said. “I’ve only just been born!” 

The trio brainstormed about names for a while, but then got sidetracked with what they all wanted to be when they grew up. “Do you have any ideas,” asked the teacher?” 

“I want to be a head of school!” one of the girls said. “And my school will need to have Core Values, but I don’t know what those should be.” 

“Maybe I can help you,” volunteered the horse. 

“You need to have responsibility,” began the teacher. “And integrity.” 

“And empathy for other horses!” said the horse. 

“We’ll need to discover things along the way!” said the other girl. 

“And you’ll need some resilience,” the horse finished. 

Suddenly, the trio and the horse looked at one another. “How would you feel if we called you Rider in honor of those core values?” asked the teacher. 

By now, you know how this story ends — happily ever after, surrounded by the cheering crowds. 

*while Rider is a male horse in this story, we know from his biographers that he really can be any gender! Everyone can and should be able to identify with Rider. 
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