Members of Rutland High School’s branch of Amnesty International and its Feminism Club hope the community will come to the school Monday to meet new Superintendent Adam Taylor and show support for social justice.
Camille Benard, a senior from France who is spending the year at Rutland High School as part of the Rotary Club exchange program, said the idea was created when she and some of her peers attended a regional Amnesty International event in Boston.
“We were just talking about how we would promote ‘Write for Rights.’ We were also talking about how the new superintendent wasn’t very known among the students. We just thought it would be a good idea to make a dinner to allow students to meet him,” she said.
Emma Pilz, a junior at RHS, said Write for Rights is a campaign to write letters to political leaders in various countries where people were being held as “prisoners of conscience.” The 11 prisoners who are the focus of this year’s campaign are all women, which prompted a coordinated effort from RHS’ Amnesty and feminism clubs.
“What we’re hoping to do is gather more people to educate them about what’s happening in other countries and what could happen to these women. Hopefully, these people (who attend Monday) will write letters to the governments and maybe they’ll tell people they know to write letters. Spread the word,” Pilz said.
The members of the clubs did more than pick a date for “Supper with a Super.” Students met several times to plan the event, said Emma Duffy, an RHS junior, and they will be active in setting up on Monday, running it and cleaning up when it’s over.
A junior at RHS, Emily Hathaway said she hoped the event would not only educate people in the Rutland area, but reach those in positions of power in other countries.
“We want to draw attention so that (the prisoners) don’t end up being killed or in prison for the rest of their lives when they really shouldn’t be and to let the governments know that we are watching and that we do see what they’re doing, and that people care, and there’s going to be changes made,” she said.
Pilz added that the students are hoping people from the community will get to know Taylor in a comfortable setting.
“Instead of being in an office, they can have a conversation with him, over a meal, about questions they have about what he’s going to be doing with the district or snow days,” she said.
Pilz said there was a “big controversy” last week when Rutland City schools remained open during a snowstorm.
Taylor said Friday he will be following the lead of the student organizers regarding his role in the event.
He pointed out the RHS Amnesty chapter bears the subtitle, “New Neighbors.”
“I guess they consider me a new neighbor so they want to have supper with the super, which I think is pretty cool. I love the fact the kids came up with it,” he said.
Taylor moved to Vermont from California this year to succeed his predecessor, Mary Moran, who retired after 18 years as superintendent.
Marsha Cassel, a teacher at RHS and facilitator for the Amnesty club, said she expected Taylor would support the interest of the students in issues of social justice because he has his “own campaigns around social justice and implicit bias.”
RHS Principal Bill Olsen says it was rewarding to have students such as the members of the clubs who organized “Supper with the Super.”
“There’s so many kids who do things in different ways all around the building that are helping the community and applying the learning they’re getting in school,” he said.
Pilz urged residents of Rutland to come to RHS on Monday because there are “people in this world suffering and we need to do something about it.”
“This is an opportunity to change a group of women’s lives. When you have privilege, you don’t see what’s happening to people without that privilege. Our rights, in this country, for the most part we take advantage of. They’re very protected. But in other countries, their governments don’t allow what we could call universal rights,” she said.
“Supper with the Super,” which is a first-time event, is a free, potluck supper in the high school theater running from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday.
More information about the Write for Rights campaign can be found online at www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/write-for-rights.