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FHN Engages in Community Circles to Encourage Unity and Equity

Changing Our Community in Circles


Credit to Bella Schneider

Students and community members sit and listen as principal Birch introduces the night. Students went in a circle answering questions about their social upbringing, and community involvement.

By Macy Cronin

Students and community leaders gathered in the Learning Commons Jan. 22 for an event that was meant to show how forming circles with all people is beneficial.

The participants of the group discussion were teachers, students and community members all from different backgrounds. Mentors from Knight Time were also invited because they have experience with circles and how they work. Everybody was seated in one large circle while onlookers were on the outside in rows watching them talk about diversity in the area. The onlookers did not participate in the discussion, but listened to them talk about how inequality affects them daily.

“It was impactful, and participants were very open,” Assistant Principal Chris Birch said. “I think there was a lot of honesty and transparency and that’s something I appreciated.”

One of the group members handed out an itinerary of the night while Birch introduced himself to the people showing up to the event. It outlined the purpose of the night, some discussion questions and the ending comments. Not many people showed up that night, but Birch is  working towards fixing that for future circles he puts on. As for FHN, they’re not hosting any Schools Engaging Community in Circles in the near future, but Schools Engaging Community in Circles will have an event on March 6 at Cold Water Elementary School in the Hazelwood school district, in addition to the one that happened on Feb. 19.

“I would have liked to see more folks,” Birch said. “I was really pleased with who did come. There were a lot of our district leaders there, another school principal was there and some other patrons I didn’t recognize.”

The students and leaders that were apart of the circle were given an opportunity to share parts of their story. Everyone had the chance to pass if they didn’t feel comfortable with the question to really make the circle a safe space for every single person. This is supposed to be an environment where they can discuss things happening in life including all the good and bad.

“The biggest challenge is working with and encouraging those folks, students and adults alike, and being able to have those tough conversations,” Birch said. “It’s hard to put yourself on the street and to be vulnerable and that’s really what sometimes happens in circles.”

Due to the fact that this was one of the first times Birch has put on an event like this, there were technical difficulties that he would need to improve on next time. Improving the sound and overall attendance rate is on the list for circles happening in the future. Students like senior Barrah Abuelawi was excited to receive a personal invitation from Birch and enjoy the event.

“I think it is important for each person to tell their story,” Abuelawi said. “It builds communication and trust between other people.”

The goal is to make everyone feel included and that they matter. That they have a story to share and that people are willing to listen to them. People talked to people; whether that be teens talking to adults or teachers to students. Hoping to create an environment that proves that they truly care for one another and that it is not some facade made to make school better. To make sure people are being respectful, Mentors are planning to use the information from the circle to help Knight Time be a better class for all in FHN.

“I feel like it will work if many people get the idea of the circles, like the message,” FHN sophomore Andres Cancel said.