The Dream Summit: A Step in
the Right Direction
By Sophia H.
February 26, 2019
Even the most passive of Westridge email checkers have likely heard discussion of the Dream Summit, held at Westridge on February 9.
The Summit provided students with a platform to offer input to the administration about how Westridge could be improved. 36 students in grades 8-12 attended the Dream Summit, which was inspired by Sosi D.’s, ’21, old school in Indonesia, Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS). Conveniently scheduled during a strategic planning year, the summit gave students a chance to represent themselves and their interests. Sosi explained her inspiration for the summit spurs from an ultimate goal to bridge a disconnect she observed between students and administration.
“I realized there was even more of a need for it than I had initially anticipated because I felt a disconnect between the students and the administration from the beginning [of my time at Westridge]. I think a lot of people have really important issues, but there isn’t a clear way to address them, so they kind of get swept under the rug,” Sosi remarked.
Along with her push for growth within Westridge, Sosi also emphasized that it stemmed not from any misgivings toward the school, but a profound appreciation for it.
“I think that’s one of the things people don’t understand about the Dream Summit, ... it really came from a place of loving Westridge so much that I wanted to put in time and effort into making it better,” she explained.
Around ten in the morning on the day of the summit, the students attending began gathering in the Commons. With each student assigned to a table, the activities began with a slideshow presented by Holly Bowyer, a Westridge board member. It relayed an overarching idea for the summit and asked students to keep the school’s mission statement in mind as they expressed their concerns:
“We are an independent, forward-thinking girls’ school committed to educating intellectually adventurous thinkers, and courageous, compassionate leaders. We strive to prepare young women to live lives of meaning, contribution, and impact,” articulates the school’s statement.
The Summit activities commenced with a question for each table: Why did we choose Westridge? What about Westridge made it the most appealing option for an all-girls education? From class sizes and interim to secularity and individuality, students made clear what they appreciated about the school and what made Westridge live up to its mission statement. Sosi explains the significance of this exercise along with her appreciation for its purpose.
“The activity really resonated with me at least because I think it showed students that the administration actually really cares about what they have to say. And I think that’s something that students have felt is lacking for a while.”
After being tasked with providing the essential needs of a Westridge graduate, the Summit concluded with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Strengths varied from teacher-student relationships to student leadership. On the other hand, the attendees recognized weaknesses, including lack of diversity and concerns over the mental health of students.
The Summit’s participants expressed overwhelmingly positive feedback, and even those who weren’t able to attend voiced enthusiasm about the prospect of a student forum. After the summit, students like Hana O., ’21, articulated their excitement at feeling represented in an official platform. However, some were left hoping for more recognition of specific issues, such as the art requirement change and waning school spirit.
“It definitely felt like we were being recognized for our ideas about the school. I think that it was hard to keep everything so abstract though. I wish we could have had more conversations about [the art requirement and waning school spirit], because I know that people have a lot of interesting ideas and perspectives on those too,” Hana explained.
Despite concerns, the Summit overall began to mend the divide between students and administration, but was only a first step toward better communication between the two groups.
So then, what next? What steps are students and administration taking toward increased between the two groups? Mrs. McGregor, Head of School, talks about the creation of more forums and platforms for increased student-administration discussion.
“One of the most important things we have to work on is finding and calendaring the time to have our forum meetings.” Mrs. McGregor explained.
Ultimately, strides are being made by both students and administration toward the ideal communication both parties are looking to achieve. Sosi concluded by saying that her work isn’t over yet, expressing her dedication to Westridge and its concerns.
“This is just a first step. It’s just a very first trial run, and I want people to know there’s more where that came from… get ready,” anticipated Sosi.