All In: Ananya Tadikonda Speaks on Respect
This week, guest blogger Ananya Tadikonda, the Student Member of the Board of Education, is offering her thoughts on the need for respect in our schools and in our community.
In the eight months that I have served as the Student Member of the Board of Education, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of students, staff, parents and community members as I’ve visited schools and participated in events across the district. The numerous opportunities to engage with members of our community and hear their stories have been one of my favorite parts of serving as a Board member. Our 163,000 students come from nearly 160 countries, speak more than 150 languages, and weave a beautifully rich tapestry of cultures, viewpoints and interests in our community. This diversity enriches all of us, and helps our county and our schools thrive. That is why reports of hate-related symbols and behavior have rattled me to my core. I’m sure many of you have felt the same way. This isn’t the MCPS that I know and love. And this hate isn’t representative of the majority of our students who model respect, civility, compassion and inclusivity every day. In my heart, I know these incidents are not an accurate representation of our student body, and there is far more good that we see daily. However, as a Board member, student, daughter and friend, these horrible acts remind me that there is much work to be done. We each play a critical part in creating a culture of respect and ensuring that our school communities are safe and welcoming.
Respect is one of the core values of the Board of Education and we believe that each individual’s contributions add value to our learning community; fair treatment, honesty, openness and integrity are essential. The diversity of our culture, interests, skills and backgrounds is an asset that makes us stronger. What is happening in our county and in our school district is not unique—we are seeing a surge in hate-based incidents, disrespectful talk and intolerance play out on the national level. However, we can’t afford to sit back and watch. We have the power to create the change we wish to see in our community.
One upcoming opportunity we all have is the Choose Respect Montgomery conference on Sunday, April 7, at Richard Montgomery High School. This event offers middle and high school students with information about healthy and unhealthy relationships, tips to help a friend, and available resources for help in the event of trauma. MCPS is offering two new programs this year: “Coaching Boys into Men” and “Athletes as Leaders.” These sessions will review strategies, scenarios and resources used to teach student athletes about healthy and respectful relationships on and off the field.
Free buses from Seneca Valley High School and Montgomery Blair High School are available. Pick up time at each school will be 11:45 a.m., and buses will return immediately once the event is over. Parking is available at Richard Montgomery, but carpooling is recommended. In addition, Student Service Learning hours will be earned by students who attend and participate. I plan to be there, and hope to see you there, too.
Many of my peers are leading the way and are using their voices, resources and passion to speak out and to stand up for what is right. Can we commit to joining them? The charge before us all is to use what we have to model civility in our interactions and to encourage candid conversation. We may not always agree with each other, but we must disagree respectfully and fairly. We must listen to others’ perspectives with openness, and accept that there are various points of view.
Our collective commitment to respect will make a difference. I’m all in. Are you?