Student and Faculty Leaders On Their MLK Day Workshops

While most high schools celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. with a day off, Andover commemorates Dr. King’s legacy with a “day on” for social justice education. Underclassmen will participate in class-wide programming, while Uppers and Seniors will take part in workshops led by peers and faculty, focusing on topics including race, gender, class, and sexuality. 

Nahila Hutchinson ’24

Workshop: The Evolution of the Afro: A Story of Unity, Liberation, and Empowerment 

“[My group and I] found that, [during the Civil Rights era], some Black Americans used their hair, [which white supremacists called ugly], as a way to fight for their social justice. I thought it was really inspirational how African Americans were able to use their hair to beautify and represent themselves. As someone who is part of a minority, [it helped me realize] that I didn’t have to conform to society’s standards, but rather use my looks and my hair to represent myself. I found it really inspirational how we can use these ordinary, common things to represent ourselves and our identities.”

Suhaila Cotton ’24 

Workshop: Not Just Climate Change: Civil Rights, Environmental Justice, and You

“[Our group’s] all part of the [Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition (PASC)], so working on environmental justice was just kind of straightforward for us… [A major challenge] is making sure that we clearly portray to people how this connects to student life, how this connects to Andover, and why it’s important for people to know this… I will always remember it with the bill discussions that we had at the end. For our activities, we had people think, ‘what environmental justice bills do you think there should be?’ Then we shared a list of what bills there actually are. So, just getting the thoughts of people like what they think there should be, what changes should be made, and hearing their thoughts on that is something that I really enjoy.”

Alice Fan ’23

Workshop: Not Just Climate Change: Civil Rights, Environmental Justice, and You

“Someone in the MLK Day facilitator training session said, ‘We’re teaching people not what to think but how to think about civil rights and environmental justice.’ So I think one of the challenges this year is to shift the focus away from researching things that we’ve done, and think more about the perspective as a whole…. [The workshop] definitely influenced my understanding of the environmental justice movement, because I didn’t know how rich of a history there was until we started the project last year…. I think, in ten years, I’ll remember how many environmental justice MLK Day workshops there were… I think it just goes to show how much interest there is and how much power there is in terms of capacity, and people willing to devote time to an environmental justice perspective.”

Andy Wall, Instructor in Chemistry

Workshop: Introduction to Environmental Inequality 

“In college, I took an Environmental History course and one of the topics [covered] was Environmental Inequality/Racism. It opened my eyes to the disproportionate exposure of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste that BIPOC communities face. Oftentimes there are systemic reasons related to this inequality, such as real estate practices and politics. As a chemistry teacher interested in issues of sustainability, I believe that I have a responsibility to help educate my students about this topic and spend time uncovering the complexity of the problem. I hope that participants of the workshop will have the same eye-opening moment that I had as a student… [and] I want the students to come away from the workshop knowing that there are ways to work to improve things, to move towards Environmental Justice.”

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted over email.

Patrick Pothel, Instructor in French

Workshop: Jackie Robinson: How did we get there?

“I have always had a love for baseball –– the game, the history, the rules, the personalities, the stats, and how it has influenced American society. As we celebrate MLK and shed light on Civil Rights, I wanted to highlight the injustices the many baseball players have suffered during the 20th century and the role they played in the inception of the Civil Rights Act of 1964… [I hope to] provide awareness of the events that preceded and led to Jackie Robinson having to break baseball’s color barrier. It is important to know that this momentous event paved the way for others like Willie O’Ree, Earl Llyod, Kenny Washington, and Woody Strode, to name a few.”

Reena Kijowski ’23

Workshop: Beauty OR Brains: Examining the role of stereotypes and implicit bias in STEM education

“I got the idea for this project through [the Brace Center for Gender Studies]…. I’ve always been interested in STEM, but I was interested in how you could add a humanities focus or like a social justice focus to my stem interests…. For me, working on this project, and then taking a break, and then brainstorming again helps me see how I could have a small impact on other people, and see if I can take a topic that interests me and try to make it accessible and meaningful to other people, especially since there’s so many different types of Andover students.”

Sarah Pan ’24

Workshop: Data Justice: Using Feminist Approaches to Dissect and Address Power Structures

“I actually found my inspiration for this topic through a book called Data Feminism [by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein]. I really enjoyed reading the book, and [it had] many really good examples  [of how feminists can use data science] that we found it hard to pick which ones to include… [I also learned] how data can also be biased and influenced by other factors, and it was something that I had never considered before. For me, I think that was my biggest takeaway.”

Natalya Baldyga (Faculty Facilitator)

Workshop: Beauty OR Brains: Examining the role of stereotypes and implicit bias in STEM education

“I’ve always been really impressed by students who are doing social justice work, and just how good they are at calling people in and negotiating some of these challenging conversations…. For me, I’d always sort of [thought more simplistically] of the way that people gender disciplines. I think that the idea of math is hard, and ‘I’m a girl, so I can’t do math.’ But I hadn’t thought about the way that disciplines might be gendered… Thinking about perceptions… of fields and disciplines [was where] it got really interesting for me.”