On Wednesday, September 25, the Universal Ninth Grade (U9) attended an assembly focused on Student Power Actualized Through Respect and Kinship (SPARK). At the assembly, Berkeley High School (BHS) freshmen learned about homophobia, bullying, consent, vaping, sexual harassment, sexual battery, and sexual assault.
Freshmen were told about on-campus resources for each of these issues, as well as the legal consequences of participating in them. The assembly began with an activity in which students shared their personal experiences standing up for others or having others stand up for them.
The assembly was based around a slideshow presentation which included a slide about homophobia, drafted by BHS senior Seth Nixon, and two videos. The first was the trailer for “ReOrientation,” a movie about homophobia in the sports industry included to encourage students to think about homophobia at multiple levels in society, and the second was the popular “Tea Consent” video, which compares consent to making a cup of tea. The slideshow wrapped up with a short presentation by Green Dot student ambassadors. Green Dot trains BHS students to assist in conflicts on campus. At the end of the assembly, every student received a paper handout with all of the resources mentioned in the slideshow.
SPARK is an annual assembly that began five years ago, after BHS administrators started to notice an increase in student harm on campus. It accompanies a two-week-long unit in freshmen seminar courses and is designed to address issues such as cyber harassment, racism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and vaping. SPARK aims to combat these issues through a lens of student empowerment, which is why the assembly closed with the Green Dot presentation.
Students who are members of Green Dot are taught three main ways to handle conflicts: direct, delegate, and distract. If students aren’t comfortable speaking up or the situation is too intense, they are encouraged to delegate — such as by seeking help from a teacher. Lastly, students are taught that they can always distract from a situation by redirecting attention elsewhere.
Although the Green Dot program got a lot of focus at the assembly, Isa Bessette, a freshman in U9, took away the message that she doesn’t “have to be a ‘green dot’ to help [her] community.” She pointed out that just because some students have specific training, “doesn’t mean that we all can’t do our part and help each other.” She said that all students “still should hold each other accountable for making our community a better place.”
One of the assembly’s faculty organizers, BHS teacher Hasmig Minassian, mentioned that, in the past, an issue which frequently arose was that students would claim to be ignorant of the consequences of their certain actions — for example, claiming to not know the definition of consent. As SPARK assemblies continue, Minassian hopes they continue to create a student body that is aware of the social issues that are prevalent throughout BHS.