By Ava Aschettino
During 2018-2019 school year, OBHS joined many Long Island schools in an island- wide event known as Breaking Borders. So, what exactly is Breaking Borders?
Students from schools across Nassau and Suffolk counties meet at a host school each month to discuss a current controversy in America. The host school creates a proposed list of questions regarding the controversy. Controversies debated this year included racial inequality, economic inequality, and gender issues, to name a few.
Students arrive at the host school after their school day ends and snack on pizza while they meet students from other schools. Then, students are placed into random groups and given questions to debate. Each group controls their own
discussions, which are led by student leaders. Talking about one question could take the entire discussion time or less than two minutes depending on whether or not the group feels satisfied with the conversation. Other participating high schools include Syosset, Amityville, and Cold Spring Harbor, among others.
Muskan Kumar, a sophomore and OBHS’s Breaking Borders representative, was one of the driving forces behind Breaking Borders. Kumar organizes the event with the representatives from other schools, organizes meetings at OBHS, and works closely with Ms. Lasher to coordinate transportation, publicity, and student involvement.
When asked why students should participate in Breaking Borders and why she believes it is important, Kumar responded, “Breaking Borders allows for students from different social, economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds to interact with each other. As many say, the children are the future. That being said, we have to be prepared to consider people of other backgrounds and how the decisions that we make will impact them. For instance, when we vote in the future, we have to make inclusive decisions so everybody benefits from them, and the only way we can learn this is by being inclusive now, which is what I believe Breaking Borders will help us to do.”
When Kumar was asked what she plans to do with Breaking Borders in the future, she shared, “Well, I would like to see more students from our school participating in Breaking Borders so that it can have a greater impact on our community. Also, I would like to take action to resolve some of the issues that we discuss at our meetings. I remember at the end of our Amityville meeting, a student said it was great that we got to discuss issues in our society, but discussing is not enough because our words are not enough to bring change. I agree, and I want to explore ways in which we can take action and bring change to society.”
Kumar is thrilled for the years to come and hopes that more students will participate in the monthly trips. Other student participants this year included Gia Gerkin (Muskan’s co-organizer), Kevin Hart, Benjamin Rivera, Omek Kumar, Deborah Castillo, Evelyn Ortiz, Natalia Velazquez, Elias Gomez, Elizabeth Figueroa, Lauren Swezey, Maria McKevitt, Katerine Ulloa, Maggie Ford, and Ava Aschettino.
Although Breaking Borders began this year, the club did not get an official advisor until recently, when Dr. Dissinger agreed to advise the club. When asked why she decided to take on the role of advisor, she responded, “My curriculum and pedagogy are designed based on the idea that vocal music serves as one of the most widely-accessible platforms for change in the world. When new students come into my class, I note the discomfort they feel when engaging in discourse about race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, economic status, and other characteristics that make up one's culture. All of these descriptors are particularly important when learning about vocal music because vocal music is a wide genre that is differentiated by culture (unlike other subject areas such as math or science). Terminology associated with culture should be part of every day vernacular if we are to truly accept people for who they are. I wanted to become the adviser of Breaking Borders in order to help further this mission among young people, who as we can see, are using their platform to inspire change. Through Breaking Borders, I hope to foster an environment where students can learn how to initiate and navigate conversations about culture, and where they are encouraged to make the change they wish to see in the world, starting with our own community, particularly in the area of social injustices.”
Dr. Faughy and Mr. Rizzuto have also attended past meetings.
Breaking Borders is an important club for students at OBHS, as it creates a vehicle for change. Students get to hear the opinions and life experiences of others. More importantly, students get an opportunity to voice their opinions and beliefs amidst a climate where teenage opinions are often looked down upon and discredited. All students should experience Breaking Borders in order to become more informed about the controversies that riddle today’s society.