By Sean Scott (Reporter ‘25)
This year, I was a part of the Friends’ Central’s Student Leadership Team for our SpeakUp! event in March. While I have been a part of many discussions on various topics in the past, whether they were with family, friends, classmates, teachers, or other people in my life, I have never had a discussion quite like the one I took part in during Friends’ Central’s SpeakUp! It was my first time participating, and it was a nice outlet for open discussions on topics chosen by the FCS Student Leadership Team. I wanted to share some of my experiences and thoughts about how my first SpeakUp! event went.
There were three SLT training sessions before the event, and I was not sure exactly what to expect, but I was excited to be part of SpeakUp! for the first time. The first training session laid a foundation for how the event would go, and that is when I found out I would receive a SpeakUp! t-shirt. Each member of the SLT received t-shirts mainly for identification purposes, but it was a neat souvenir for me as well! I enjoyed the third training session in particular when we went over tips for moderating a discussion.
We learned methods for redirecting the conversation in case someone monopolizes the discussion, judges others, gives names of individuals in shared stories, or several other undesirable scenarios. The third training session helped me to become more comfortable in the leadership role, and I felt like I had the ability to help direct the conversation instead of the conversation just happening around me. After completing the training sessions, I no longer felt at a disadvantage compared to more experienced students in SpeakUp!
The SpeakUp! event was split into an introductory session in the meeting room and breakout sessions for the different discussion topics in the Middle School. For the introductory session, all of the SLT members sat together wearing our t-shirts. For me, that was one of the highlights of the night because that was when I felt the greatest sense of unity as the SLT. As the introduction was given, I thought about how all of the training sessions led up to this event and how I was excited to be going to the breakout sessions soon.
The breakout session I chose was discussing achievement culture. At the beginning of the session, we went around the room introducing ourselves and giving one word to describe how we felt at that moment. It was a nice way to ease into the discussion and to hear from everyone. The talking points that the SLT came up with were helpful, but the discussion had a flow of its own as well. Students and adults contributed about equally to the discussion, with a variety of viewpoints as well as common themes. Some of the major topics we covered were college, choosing a career, academic standards, and being okay with imperfection. It was especially interesting to hear about the differences in perspective regarding college between people who have graduated college already and people who are in high school and preparing for college. Having roughly equal numbers of people with both perspectives made for a positive dynamic during the conversation. I felt comfortable sharing my views, and it seemed like that was the feeling for everyone else in the room. The discussion was calm and non-stressful, and none of the scenarios that called for redirection actually happened. The discussion went on for over an hour without any awkward silence. Everyone knew when it was alright to start speaking, and no one was talked over or cut off. This certainly was one of the longest discussions I have had, and I learned a lot from it.
At the end of the discussion, we went around the room again giving one word to describe how we were feeling. There was a noticeable positive shift in the majority of the words given, which made for a fitting end to the night. People said that they felt grateful and eye-opened, two great sentiments that show what a little time at SpeakUp! can do for us as a community.