Berkeley High School hosted its first Unity Assembly, after three years without an official spirit week assembly or rally, on October 14. Various BHS sports teams, dance performances, and demonstrations filed onto the stage over the course of the assembly to demonstrate BHS spirit. The assembly, referred to as the “Show of Unity,” kicked off the coming Unity Week which ended in Red and Gold day.
“In planning for past rallies, I was left with an icky feeling” said John Villavicencio, BHS Activities Coordinator. Villavicencio described planning this assembly as a success.
According to Villavicencio, past assemblies were a time when students felt it justified to abuse drugs and alcohol on school campus.
This year, a mass email was sent out to students saying that the use of drugs or alcohol would result in a five day suspension.
Three years ago, the tradition of Rally Day at Berkeley High was terminated after the administration felt that it was no longer a positive custom.
Last year, when BHS held an all school assembly — the Sankofa assembly — Principal, Sam Pasarow decided that the school could handle an assembly similar to the ones held in prior years. “This is something we worked up to,” said Pasarow. “The [Sankofa] assembly gave us the feeling that our kids can operate within these parameters and be safe.”
Despite the belief that the students of BHS were ready for such an assembly, Pasarow and BHS Activities Director, John Villavicencio, had concerns about safety. Wristbands were required for student entrance into the assembly and students were instructed to leave bags.
Pasarow said “The staff has some fear about the balcony given what has happened in the theater in the past.” Students have jumped from the balcony into the chairs below in previous years.
While no students were hurt at the “Show of Unity” this year, many students threw the glow sticks that had been handed out.
The Unity Week activities and the assembly raise controversy about the effect of the assembly. Some believe that it disturbs unity and overall positivity between the classes.
BHS sophomore Avi Sherman said that when people paint their class graduation years on their bodies and shout profanities at each other, it creates a “tense and fear inducing environment.”
Pasarow stated that the assembly was an “opportunity for the school to come together.” He believes that the grades must become more unified in order to create a healthy environment on campus.
Some students, on the other hand, feel that the tension between classes fosters an enjoyable experience. “That’s what makes rally day so fun,” stated a BHS junior, “We’re taking pride in our classes.”
Others acknowledge a disconnect between students on campus, but are not bothered by the issue. Thomas Levy said, “Of course there’s a unity problem, it’s high school. It’s not bad really; it’s all part of BHS culture.”
Villavicencio planned the assembly geared owards promoting all-school spirit. The BHS football team was a central aspect of the assembly.
They came out on stage and got the student body hyped for sports games in the fall. Students had suggestions of future improvements to the assembly.
“Have a more interesting freshman and sophomore segment,” said a BHS freshman.
Daraja Mcdonald requested less security: “I know [the administrators] were trying to be safe, but the wristbands seemed a little weird.”
Amber Lee, the MC of the event said, “We [leadership] are all learning, and I think as we learn, we’ll get better and better.”
Many students want the assembly to take place again next year. “Last year, I felt that Berkeley High’s unity fell short.” said BHS sophomore Rachel Aronson.Many students had fun during the assembly.
“The assembly provided an opportunity for the four grades to unite and bond. This experience helped me … feel connected to [my] school, so I hope this tradition continues,” added Aronson.