Distance learning is taking its toll on the social and emotional well-being of many of the students in the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD). That’s why student leaders at Santa Clara High School (SCHS) have taken it upon themselves to try to bring a sense of normalcy to the year by moving school community events like rallies online.
“We still kept our main mission this year the same and that was to really welcome the new incoming class and also the returning classes to school,” said SCHS Associated Student Body (ASB) President Pradeep Kundu. “We didn’t really have any precedent when planning this rally. We tried to do research at other schools; either they completely scrapped the rally idea or they were going to delay it later on to the year.”
The rally was the culmination of the school’s Acts of Kindness Week, which started on Aug. 24 this year. Acts of Kindness Week is a tradition that was developed last year, when Vice Principal and Leadership Teacher Erin Brown challenged the students to create a vision of what they wanted the campus to be.
“The kids came to this understanding that they wanted to make the beginning of the school year a welcoming place for all the kids,” said Brown. “It used to be the focus in the beginning was high academic rigor. So, they wanted to change it up in the beginning to be like ‘School’s welcoming, these are ways you can be involved; these are all the different opportunities.’ So, they came up with this kindness week.”
This year, Acts of Kindness Week was adapted to distance learning with a special emphasis on helping the incoming Class of 2024 transition to high school.
“We started with a kindness of freshman day,” said Kundu. “We would have this Instagram flyer that we post[ed]. There [would] be some frequently asked questions that freshmen would ask and many people who were upperclassmen in our school would answer those questions and we [would] post them.”
The week continued with themed days including Self-Empowerment Day, Community Service Day and Social Awareness Day. It culminated with a virtual rally, which was posted on YouTube and released at a set time so the entire school could watch it together.
“The beauty of having this unprecedented time — this little silver lining — is that the way that it opens up a lot of new ideas that we’ve had in the past,” said SCHS ASB Vice President Zianna Razon. “It was an opportunity for students and leadership to implement their own creative ways to interact with the student body online.”
Nearly 300 people “attended” the virtual rally and hundreds more have watched since it was posted on YouTube. What viewers witnesses was much more diversity than year’s past. Clubs that didn’t participate in past years, did this year, helping to build that school community feeling.
“It was also a way just to bring a sense of normalcy to the student body,” said Razon. “As I was watching it, I felt really nostalgic of how it used to be in the past years. The school had spirit squad performing. They all recorded themselves at home, edited a video together and we put that in the rally. It really just brought that Bruins’ pride that we were missing for so long back.”