written by Helen L, Ila S, and Sean W
Class of 2019
On November 10th, 2016, Brooklyn Friends School hosted its third annual Community Issues Conference. The Community Issues Conference is a day that promotes awareness surrounding issues that have been thoughtfully selected by the tenth grade. This year, those topics included, Animal Rights, Climate Change, Colorism and the Role of Media, Education Gap, Gender Binary, Gun Control, Human Trafficking, Xenophobia/Islamophobia, Learning Disabilities, Mental Health Stigmas, Police Brutality and Racial Profiling, Rape Culture, Refugee Crisis, Reproductive Health and Rights, School to Prison Pipeline, Sex Workers’ Rights and Prostitution, and finally, Youth Incarceration. Student organizers invited speakers from New York City-based organizations to educate students and faculty on topics that interest them.
This year was primarily focused on spreading awareness, as well as inspiring students to take action. The speakers provided effective ways for students to use their privilege for the benefit of society. For example, Janai Smith, representing ECPAT-USA, discussed ways that students could start clubs to educate their classmates on preventative measures for Human Sex Trafficking. Suggestions like these are an effective way to promote action by means that are available to students. The conference was especially meaningful because all those participating were allowed to attend sessions of topics that genuinely interested them. Brooklyn Friends aimed to provide this experience because, in a lot of other educational institutions, community service carries a forced vibe when students have to complete a certain amount of hours to graduate. But through the Community Issues Conference and the use of service learning, students leave high school with a quality understanding of a social issue that is either close to their personal experience or just wholeheartedly fascinates them. Thank you to Natania Kremer, Noel Quiñones, the Brooklyn Friends School tenth graders, all of the fascinating speakers, and the maintenance staff for making the 2016 Community Issues Conference possible.
Teachers from visiting schools shared the following feedback after their Community Issues Conference experiences:
“I have been meaning to write to tell you how impressive and absolutely wonderful the conference was. We all loved it and learned so much. It has inspired our students to action – they are organizing a lunch and learn with one of the panel leaders around gender-based violence. Thank you for such a meaningful day!” – guest from Trinity School
“We all had a wonderful time at the BFS Community Issues Conference, and our students in particular were bowled-over by the issues and the thoughtfulness of their BFS peers’ level of civic engagement. We had lunch afterwards and they had lots of ideas that they wanted to bring back to Trinity. We are grateful for the invite.” – guest from Trinity School
“It was a wonderfully enriching experience and I thank you for organizing it and inviting other schools to take part. Congrats on a beautifully orchestrated event! Looking forward to next year’s!” – guest from Lycée Francais
“Your school is a magical place. I was touched by the warmth of the students and staff. A sense of social consciousness permeates. It is palpable. I heard it in conversations and saw it in interactions. Hearing Louis Errol was a tonic. In a bitter week, his message was uplifting and inspiring. I have shared it many times. I also found comfort being around students who care and who act.” – guest from Scarsdale High School
Our 2016 Community Issues Conference Partner Organizations included: 350 NYC, American Friends Service Committee, Animal Care Centers of NYC, Brooklyn Learning Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Justice at Columbia University, Child Mind Institute, Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Women, Committee to Eliminate Racism, Communities United for Police Reform, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Cultures of Consent, ECPAT-USA, Girls for Gender Equity, GlobalKids, Horizons Program at BFS, Independent School Diversity Network, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Intraracial Colorism Project, LES Ready, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, MomsRising.Org, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Institute for Reproductive Health, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Project Reach, Red Umbrella, Save Our Schools, The Mighty, UNICEF, & Youth First Initiative.
And this year’s conference poster was designed by 10th grader Maxine S: