Annual World Cafe connects community

April 2, 2019 — by Ashley Feng and Kevin Sze

How to make the school better was one of the the questions being served up at the annual World Cafe, organized by the Social Emotional Learning team (SEL). The event took place in the library on March 28.

Around 30 participants attended, a relatively number small compared to past World Cafes with over 100 participants.

The event was first introduced to the school four years ago, during the controversial bell schedule change.

“The community got heated about it, there were some racial overtones thrown out there, there were misperceptions and disagreements, and I thought it was a great opportunity because it’s such a safe environment to have hard conversations,” assistant principal Kerry Mohnike said.  “The model provides for intimate conversations so people can share their concerns without feeling judged.”

This year’s World Cafe began with an icebreaker activity where participants were able to introduce themselves to each other while answering prompts such as “describe a place you call home.” Then, students, staff and parents were encouraged to take a seat at a table with someone they did not know for more activities.

Participants were asked three specific questions to discuss with their tablemates, which led up to the main issue at hand: how can we leave Saratoga High better than we found it?

“The hope is that we can generate some ideas and improve the situation at the school and in the world with what the group comes up with,” Mohnike said.

With some of the prompts for discussion at the event, many students were able to share their experiences.

Freshman Esther Luan, who attended the World Cafe for her first time, said she “gained a better understanding of our school and the people in it and ideas for what we can do to make our school better.”

Luan described how the structured environment allowed for teachers, parents and students to better share their ideas and for new ideas to be brought to light.

The next World Cafe will most likely be held a year from now, according to Mohnike. “I think the underlying purpose of the World Cafe will always be about connection and bringing parents and teachers and students together to have honest conversations and reality and what the world for our students is like,” Mohnike said. “[It’s about] making Saratoga a place where people want to be and can contribute and feel cared about is special.”

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