You are on page 1of 2

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are

all part of
one another, and all involved in one another. ~Thomas Merton
When I woke my son up for school this morning, he rolled over and asked for a few more minutes of sleep.
It reminded me of all the mornings my own mother woke me up for school, when every morning I would say
five more minutes please, just so I could dream a little longer. My parents were also dreamers and Amherst
was their dreaman educated community oozing with 1970s liberalism and humanitythe qualities that
lured them here from Philadelphia, back then, in hopes of providing the best opportunities for my sisters and
me. I had the same hope for my son when I returned here to Amherst in 2008. I wanted for him the
opportunities I hada good education in a safe community, where people cared and shared similar values
and dreams for a better world.
It didnt take me long after I had returned, however, to realize that Amherst had changed. In many ways it
had changed for the better, but in other ways it had become very much like the rest of our country
reflective of a larger society whose past demons have come home to roost. Today, the world feels restless and
unsettled, and Amherst is not immune to the effects of globalization, poverty, environmental issues, war,
greed, etc. More communities are turning inward, to creative human capital as the catalyst for survival, social
change, and community stability. Its people, working together, that create a thriving, vibrant, safe, and
healthier community environment with less stress, more empathy, and an overall higher quality of life.
Recently, my dear neighbor pointed to an article in Business Insider that stated that according to a real estate
analysis by Zillow, homes grow more rapidly in value if they are in close proximity to a Trader Joe's or Whole
Foods. I admit that I rely mostly on both to feed my family. But what is also true is that public schools impact
community and house value. They are a core asset for drawing families to a communitythe only reason that
I, myself, returned here.
So if all of this is true, what's up with all of the political drama continually surrounding and plaguing our
schools? While we aim to teach our children that bullying is not okay, the current climate here suggests
otherwise, as we witness the drawing out of people's personal laundry, aired in newspapers, blogs, emails,
Facebook...spanning across social media, for all the world to see and judge our community. But interestingly
enough however, so few of us are willing to simply pick up the phone or offer to take someone to lunch for a
simple conversation. And even fewer of us are willing to come out from behind our computer screens to
actually help, volunteer or make any sort of contribution toward bettering our community.
The critical factor here is that while we boast about only the h is silent, we are more passionate about just
being vocal about the things that upset us, than we are about actually helping to bring about the changes we
seek. This is not at all helping our community or our children. However, it is our children who have stepped
up to the plate and aligned their efforts with their voice, to take positive action. We could certainly learn from
them. Within our schools, our students, teachers, administrators, parents, paras, interns and many others
ARE making a difference, and our children are standing up and finding the support they need to share their
voice and make a difference...in turn, providing many benefits to our community.
Over the past year, I have had an opportunity to witness our schools in actiona prime example of the
beauty and transformative nature of humanity and its potential to impact people. Just within the last 6 months

170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA 01002 | 413-362-1820 | www.amhersttogether.org

alone, our schools have made significant social impacts on our community and society at largeone in
particular, even gained the attention of President Obama. Just to highlight a few
At the High School: People of Color United (POCU) members joined 1,500 volunteers to help revitalize 62
homes for Springfield residents; Refugees In Distress club (RDC) organized an assembly to raise
awareness and educate the community about the plight of refugees; Black Lives Matter (BLM) held two
assemblies featuring the history of BLM, performances, and small group discussions; Best Buddies club
hosted several events to bring awareness to the isolation of people with intellectual and developmental
disabilities; Community Service Club hosted an annual Red Cross Blood Drive in April, where 74 students
and 10 staff members donated blood. 37 pints were collected, setting a record with the most since 2011. A
French-Francophone Dinner explored various aspects of French and Francophone cultures from France to
West Africa. African Scholars Program shared its experiences of living with families during its recent
exchange trip to Senegal and The Gambia; In Our Shoes blog was recently launched to educate and actively
discuss feminist issues. At South East High School Campus, a $7,500 AEF grant provided students an
opportunity to construction a greenhouse for hands-on education in sustainable gardening and food
production. The Middle School Student Advocates For Change (SAFC) advocated for changing Columbus
Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, resulting in the Regional School Committee changing the school calendar to
reflect the change. At Wildwood, prompted by a class assignment, four sixth graders wrote a letter to
President Obama requesting a response to the nations racial climate impacting Black boys and recently
received his response. The Wildwood Multicultural Fair and the Fort River Cultural Heritage Fair were
both organized to celebrate diversity, with performances, games and an international potluck. The Crocker
Farm Book Swap made it possible for every child in the school to take home free new and used books,
donated to inspire in students a love of reading. At Pelham, a multicultural music program featured music
from many countries, with songs in Spanish, French, and Russian and played African and Latin percussion
instruments. In the District offices, the ARPS Family Center staff works throughout the week and
weekends to support our families with out of school resources, youth engagement, workshops, in-school
supportincluding a Family Outreach of Amherst satellite office, home visits, and before and after school
programs; Latino Achievement Night partnered with CMASS to host a great event for the 10th Latino
Achievement Night, with over 400 people in attendance, featuring awards, raffles, prizes, and performances; 9
ARHS students and 11 ARPS faculty and administrators attended the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys
of Color (COSEBOC) conference in New York City to support and strengthen our districts commitment to
the development of our young men of color; Black Scholars Rising ceremony honored student transitions
in grade level, while promoting the legacy and cultural awareness of the African American experience, with
nearly 400 in attendance.
Our schools have clearly provided much, much to be proud of and celebrate! However, there is still work to
do to serve all of our children. This is an urgent call to action. We must support and nurture our schools and
the hard-working, committed people in it. We owe it to our children to champion their efforts and protect
their environment. It is our responsibility as adults. We need to shift our focus from ridicule and belligerence
to encouragement and benevolence. If not, our schools suffer, our town suffers, our property values suffer,
our businesses suffer, our university and colleges feel the impact, and Amherst will not remain a community
where people want to live, work, stay or come back to raise their children. And that would be sad. Its time to
be a more compassionate community that works together and dares to dream. That need is now, and the shift
begins with each and every one of us.
Carol Ross

170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA 01002 | 413-362-1820 | www.amhersttogether.org