By Leni G., Seventh-Grade Student at The Langley School
“Langley Students Support Love, Not Hate” is a campaign I started with two Langley friends after the inspiring words of a teacher. On Monday, October 29, Mr. McKinney, my former science teacher, gave a speech at our Monday morning meeting. Each Monday morning, our Middle School sits as a group and discusses upcoming events or goals for the week. As it was two days after the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, not everyone was as cheerful as usual. Mr. McKinney addressed this, and explained to all of us how lucky we are to all be so fortunate and the amount of gratitude we should have every single day.
I am confident in saying that every student and faculty member there was touched by this speech, and we wanted to take action. I have always been interested in current events, and I love to watch the news. Staying current with politics is a passion of mine, and I have noticed recently that mass shootings toward innocent people have become a larger and larger problem. After the Pittsburgh tragedy, and Mr. McKinney’s motivating words, I knew that Langley could help to make a difference. As students, my friends and I had a vision that as a school we could contribute to spreading awareness in our community about supporting love rather than hate.
Later that morning, I told my friends how much Mr. McKinney’s speech had meant to me, and they couldn’t agree more. My two close friends, Annamaria and Gillian, wanted to work with me. Although we had no ideas and no plan, we were confident that Langley would support us with our vision and help it become a reality. On that same Monday, I went with Gillian and Annamaria to Mr. McKinney. The three of us thanked him for what he had said, and told him that we were grateful. We then explained that although we had no plans, we wanted to bring the school together and demonstrate to the rest of the community outside of our campus that we support love, not hate.
In the following week, we built on each others’ ideas, and we began to share our vision with our peers. Our campaign ‘slogan’ is “Langley Students Support Love, Not Hate.” We thought that this best demonstrated both what we thought represented our school to people around us, and what we were within our school to each other. My friends and I then presented our plan to Mr. McKinney, who was on board. We wanted to have an activity where students would work in groups of about five to create a poster. These groups had sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in each of them; there were 30 groups in total. Each poster would represent different ideas that endorsed love. Once they were completed by Thanksgiving break, they would be put up around the campus. They are scattered, with a few in each building. Our plan was simple and fun, while also having a powerful message, and was able to engage all of the students.
There were not many materials needed for the activity, and after meeting with Ms. Coates, our dean of students, Gillian and I set up a few dates for us to work with the rest of the Middle School. First, Annamaria, Gillian, and I gave our own speech to the Middle School. We expressed to them that we were inspired by Mr. McKinney and motivated to take action. Next, we explained the poster activity to our peers. The activity was pretty open-ended and open to interpretation. We purposely didn’t have many structured rules or guidelines. Our friends seemed eager to start, and we happily noted how genuinely excited everyone was for the posters.
Each poster was different and unique, with its own meaning and message. Some were about being kind to friends, while others didn’t have any words and used symbols such as emojis to demonstrate their message. A couple of posters were about the environment, and a few were about openness toward religion. Lots of them had quotes with beautiful illustrations, but many were simple and just said, “Langley Students Support Love, Not Hate.” Here are some of my personal favorites, but they were all fabulous!
Some groups were chosen to present to the rest of the Middle School, and by winter break, all 30 posters were up around the campus. There is at least one poster in every single building. No two were the same, and they all had something unique about them.
Overall, we were very proud of our peers and the work that they created. Each student had contributed in his or her own way, whether sharing an idea or decorating the poster with bright colors. This activity was a great experience for both the teachers and the students.
Gillian, Annamaria, and I look forward to connecting with the rest of the school and the community outside of our campus in the future. Although they have seen our posters, we would like to incorporate Langley’s younger students more into this campaign. We do think that some students may be too young to learn about some current events, but students on this campus are never too young to learn about kindness, love, and respect. We look forward to sharing the activity that we did with the rest of the school. One way that we will share this campaign with the community beyond Langley is through social media. We are hoping to share some photos of the posters on Langley’s Instagram page. A goal we have is to share our project with Langley parents, alumni, and more.
I am so thankful that Langley was able to give us this opportunity. My friends and I came up with an idea and with the help of a teacher, it became a reality that we could pursue. Overall, it was fun and the Middle Schoolers learned a lot and became more aware of current events in our country. I am so happy to be growing as a student and a leader in this community.
Our story is not complete. Stay tuned because in a future blog post, Annamaria will share how Langley will bring this campaign to younger Langley students and the rest of the McLean community.
I hope that by reading this article, you have motivation to continue to love, not hate this holiday season and into the new year!