Updated: Sep 18
By Maya Shavit
The year 2020 and its pandemic have brought more challenges to all aspects of life than anyone could have predicted. Particularly within the school environment, students have struggled to find a sense of normalcy as they are physically divided from each other. With some students attending school in-person and others online, it is difficult to stay updated and motivated. However, throughout the struggles of the pandemic the student leaders have been there, working hard for their peers on how to make school as manageable and fun as possible. From grade officers, to Jewish Leadership Initiative (JLI) members, and the Student Association (SA) officers, the student movement to take control of their 2020 school experience is in full force.
Particularly for the 12th grade officers, finding enough time for the class to plan and enjoy senior events has been difficult. It was already difficult for the officers only having a single period a cycle to host Grade Meeting, where the whole grade meets to discuss ideas, but now there have been new assemblies and lessons encroaching on their designated time. As senior treasurer, Robby Ufberg ‘21 feels this struggle. “We've been working hard to try and figure out ways to raise money and morale for the grade mid-pandemic, but it's been hard to find time to plan because of the Israel meetings we've had that replace Grade Meeting,” he says. In addition to the stresses of the pandemic, time is valuable for seniors as they must focus on more than just their difficult Barrack classes. “We've all been swamped with college applications, but now that we are finished with the November applications, we’re organizing a cookie dough sale and a possible sticker sale or face mask sale.” Ufberg and his fellow grade officers are focused on trying to keep their grade united through new sale ideas, amidst the chaos of a senior year during coronavirus. While they persevere to plan sales, the officers also brainstorm innovative ideas that can have the class come together for much needed comfort during the school year. With senior activities like prom still up in the air, class funding and bonding is more important than ever before.
Like the grade officers, the JLIers have transformed the way that they meet with the Barrack community. Since, due to safety restrictions, there are no traditional Shabbatons where grades would stay overnight at school, the JLI has created “Shishi Together” programming. JLI member Shira Amar ‘21 explained, “During our Shishis, we provide bonding activities incorporating our Derech Eretz values, humorous plays based on the Parsha of the week, tie-dying, and a great lunch. So far they have been extremely successful and we cannot wait to plan more of them!” During these Shishis, there are also alternative praying options to keep the community safe. JLIer Matthew Garber ‘21 elaborated, “For the davening and prayer group which I was assigned to for the Shishi, we could not do any prayer because we were unable to sing together. Instead, we gave the students journals to either write or draw in. For people that did not want to do that, we offered the option to meditate and say the silent Amidah in order to give a variety of options.” In addition to the new “Shishi Together” program, there are weekly Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat services for the whole community. As weeks progress and holidays happen, there are still special activities for specific holidays as in past years, but they look a bit different. An example is a video for Sukkot that came to the student body with an interactive virtual Sukkah building activity. Amar expanded on a recent holiday event, “For Sukkot, we presented a fun virtual Sukkot activity where students personalized their own Sukkah on a slide and could comment on others. We also put together a fascinating video about the importance of Sukkot.”
While the grade officers and JLI members work diligently in the interests of their individual grades and the Jewish aspect of Barrack, the SA Officers have had the task of keeping lines of communication open among the staff and the students. SA Secretary Anita Hoffman ‘21 is among the team of student leaders. ”After going virtual in March, SA immediately began to work to ensure that students could get the most out of online learning. Over the course of the past eight months, SA has planned various activities to keep Barrack's community strong, including a Thanksgiving event. We also have worked to help students adjust to the hybrid learning model.” SA officers continue to bring student concerns to the attention of the administration as they always have done, but their jobs have expanded exponentially now that a substantial portion of students learn full-time at home. Hoffman and her peer officers continue to update the students with weekly “SA Happening” emails and post on social media about school activities, like clubs.
Even during this period of doubt, the student leaders have made it their mission to help the student body however they can. Their efforts to keep the student body informed and excited during the insanity of a pandemic cannot afford to go unnoticed.