The most ubiquitous three letter acronym at Bergen County Academies, aside from BCA itself, is IDA. Ask any student and they can tell you it stands for International Day of Acceptance, a day in which the BCA community celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. In a typical year, students begin the day with workshops and end with dance performances from various cultural groups. However, this year things changed and on Friday, January 26, BCA celebrated IDA over zoom with a keynote address and workshops.
Students attended two workshops of their choosing, one at 1:45 and the next at 2:50. Topics covered equity and justice in areas ranging from race to climate change, in addition to sessions on cultural awareness and appreciation. Passionate students, teachers, professionals, and alumni hosted these meetings to teach students about a global or local issue they care deeply about.
Two BCA juniors Laila Jeffries-El and Anja Husemann hosted “The Power of Protests.” This was a lecture style presentation covering protests from 1917-2021. They described what protests actually are, what forms they exist in, and how they have played vital roles in many social justice movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter, and government corruption. The session concluded with an open discussion on protests. This exemplifies two main pillars of IDA: education and conversation.
Students should leave their sessions with lessons like that of Laila and Anja. For protests specifically, Laila drove her point: “We were given the freedom of speech and we need to exercise our right to hold the government accountable. In some countries they don’t even have these freedoms and they are still going out and protesting so we have no excuse to let the American government harm the American people without any repercussions.” They received positive feedback from the workshop students, with many noting that they enjoyed the global element of the presentation. Even students who had been to protests were able to learn more.
It is great to hear from friendly faces like Laila and Anja, but students were also able to hear from teachers, alumni, and various professionals. One benefit to the virtual format was that presenters could join from anywhere. Abby Saks, a BCA senior, moderated a session on climate change held by a presenter from Kentucky who would not have otherwise been able to join.
Although the pandemic allowed the workshops to continue very similarly to previous years, it did not allow for the student-led dance groups to perform. 80% of 20 polled BCA students selected the assembly as their favorite part of the day, citing the sense of community, uniqueness, and ability to share and learn from others as their main takeaways from the day. One student stated, “It was just fun to be with a group of people who you had fun with and I love performing and sharing my culture and learning about the culture of others.”
Ms. Lewitt, a world language teacher involved in the Diversity Alliance, agreed that the performances saying, “In my opinion, the IDA performances are important in order to celebrate the multicultural composition of our BCA community. I think it’s wonderful that students have an opportunity to share aspects of their own heritage with each other in a fun and engaging way, as well as gain exposure to the traditions of cultures different from their own.”
Luckily for students hoping to participate, the Diversity Alliance is currently working on a performance event towards the end of the year. The Diversity Alliance is best known for their organization of IDA, but their work never stops especially this year with the added event. Even though BCA could not be united physically on the 26th, the overarching themes of compassion and inclusion unite the school despite the barriers.