Friday Seminars are introduced into South’s curriculum


ACLU representative, Jane Kooren, speaks to an audience of South’s students during the first Friday Seminar on February 10th.

Sophia Manolis, Staff Writer

On Friday, February 10th, a seminar took place in the auditorium to address student rights. This seminar was the first of a series of many, and they will take place every other week. The next one is on Friday the 24th.

The program was initiated by Principal Ray Aponte and Diversity and Equity Coordinator, Ethan Dean. “This is an idea that has been kicked around for some time,” Dean said. “We’re trying to make this a more structural aspect of South, where… every other week… there will be an opportunity to get a pass to come to the auditorium and experience a workshop, maybe ask questions to a panel… the format’s kind of wide open, in terms of what it would mean.”

For the first seminar, the speaker was a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) named Jane Kooren. The American Civil Liberties Union is an organization that was established over a hundred years ago. “The ACLU does work defending people’s rights, and I do work doing outreach and education talking to people about their rights,” Kooren said.

Kooren was invited to South by Public Relations Coordinator Lisa Ramirez. “For the first Friday seminar, we wanted to address issues that are relevant to students,” Ramirez said. “One of the main issues is immigration…students who are worried about their status, and what that means given the new [Presidential] administration. I immediately thought of the ACLU because they put out a lot of information regarding immigration, but when I spoke with them they said they also do police interactions, social media, student rights in general… I thought, ‘that’s perfect.’”

This first seminar was very educational. Kooren spoke about what to do when immigration officers come to your door, what to do when the police confront you, and much much more. “I want to make sure students are informed so they knew what their rights are in situations that can be tense or scary.” Kooren said afterword.

According to freshman Emily Mulhern, “I think it’s really good information for people to know especially with what’s been going on recently… it’s really important that that information is out there. I thought it was really good… there were definitely some things [I learned] that I did not know about.”

Freshman Charles Johnson decided to go to the seminar because “I wanted to hear what people had to say about stuff that’s going on in the world, that’s affecting people’s lives.” He liked how Kooren, “answered everyone’s questions… and didn’t just [give] a simple answer.” When asked whether he would go back to a future seminar, he said, “Yes. For sure.”

Though the first seminar was organized by administration, Dean and Aponte are hoping that the next seminars will be led by students. “We’re looking for student groups to be able to… bring the topics that are of interest to… [the] greater student body during the school day,” Dean said. “[We’re] trying to support student groups [and students], to promote the things that are of interest to them… [and] to offer them an avenue to promote community experts in to talk about things that are relevant to them.”

If you/a student group you’re involved in is interested, the Friday Seminars may be a great opportunity to organize your own presentation, either by creating an actual presentation yourself or by asking someone you know to come and present. Before you start planning anything, you have to get an application from Dean (find him in his office at 227B) and fill it out so your idea can be approved.

So far, no student applications have been submitted, but future seminars are continuing to be planned. “We may or may not have a panel of South alumni… to do a panel about the evolution of South historically and culturally,” Dean said. “[And] two weeks out, the Building Lives and Acquiring Cultural Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K) class is going to do a presentation about the work that they’re doing.”

Overall, the Friday seminars really are about South students. As Dean said, “[We want] student groups to feel like the effort that they’re making to get together and organize… has an outlet in the school when everybody’s here.”

He continued: “Hopefully it will catch a fire to encourage [other] students… and help them learn something, inspire them to either learn more, support the organization or causes that are being spoken about, or even put their own interests out there for others to access.. it could kind of have some ripple effect in the school based on students having the most personal, local, and immediate interests and concerns of theirs be a part of the meta conversation of the overall South student community.”