Perhaps you remember Summer and Valerie ’13 collecting backpacks and school supplies for Mira Scholars back in the fall. Perhaps you rallied behind their Senior Signature Project (SSP) goal to support international aid communities in new and different ways. And perhaps, if you’ve spent time around The Bay School lately, you’ve noticed thought-provoking phrases posted right where you’d least expect them.
These phrases, too, are part of Summer and Valerie’s SSP plan. “We have the international aid part of [our SSP] where we collected the backpacks and donated them,” Summer said, “but the second part is how we can relate that to bringing awareness about privilege.” In thinking about a “creative way to bring attention to [privilege],” the duo realized that their ultimate goal was simply to get people thinking about day-to-day comforts that many of us take for granted.
So Summer and Valerie decided to pose “questions that invoke thought about how we live in today’s society and bring attention to simple things that Bay students and Bay Area residents have,” Valerie said. “Those are obviously things that not everyone has, but that we take for granted every day.”In other words, beginning the conversation about privilege – be it based on location, physical ability, access to education or something else entirely – is what Summer and Valerie believe is most important.
The decision to post eye-catching questions in high-traffic areas such as hallways and staircases was very intentional, as well. “They are topics and questions that we see in individual discussions with other people, but they don’t get brought out to the larger community,” Valerie added. “That was our goal: to have them there for people who maybe don’t think about it.”
Summer and Valerie also wanted people who viewed the installations to be able to shape their own experience of the topic. “We wanted it to be a very individual type of thinking,” Valerie said. “It’s not, ‘We want you to think this.’ It’s that because the question’s there, you can think what you want to think … it’s a very organic and self-imposed type of learning.” So, as a phrase pasted to a pillar catches your eye as you walk down the hall, remember: if you think about the message (even just for a second!) you become an active participant in a school-wide effort to raise awareness about privilege.
And with the feedback Summer and Valerie have been getting, it’s safe to say their experiment was and continues to be resoundingly successful at bringing thoughts about privilege to the forefront of community members’ minds. “Some people think it’s a really cool way to do it,” Summer said. “A lot of people said it’s very ‘Bay’ to bring up the topic in this way. Other people have had mixed feelings about it. They say, ‘I don’t really know about that one.’ But it’s causing a response, so that’s what we want.”