Classes to be disrupted by next week’s Breaking down the Walls program, but organizers expect big benefits for students

October 15, 2018 — by Elaine Toh and Muthu Palaniappan

New breaking down of walls event will take place on the week of Oct. 22

Next week, the school will be going through its first ever Breaking Down the Walls program, starting with school-wide assemblies on Oct. 22. During the rest of the week, LINK Crew leaders and other appointed seniors will lead freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the Large Gym in activities circling around the theme of connection.

“We will spend a lot of time talking about connection,” assistant principal Kerry Mohnike said. “Connecting to the school and the people around you improves your sense of well-being and your academic performance.”

The Monday assembly will be split into two: Half of the students will attend the beginning part of first period and the other half at the end, based on who their teachers are. Following the meeting, LINK leaders will stay behind for third, fifth and seventh period in order to receive training.

Leaders will be instructed on how to guide discussions for the other days of the week, during which they will direct other students. The program will have a full-day agenda of activities, provide lunch for students and end at 2:10 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

In order to participate, students will have to miss classes on one of the weekdays based on a set schedule, which is alphabetically ordered by last name. For example, freshmen and sophomores with last names starting with A to C as well as juniors with last names starting with A to F on Tuesday. On their specific day, they will walk down to the Large Gym to participate in the program.

While students are not forced to attend the program, the end results are well worth missing a few periods of class, Mohnike said.

My understanding with the program is that nobody knows what it is like at first,” Mohnike said, “but as the days go on, more people want to go and are excited to.”

But many students, after hearing that they would need to miss classes to attend the program, were worried about missing their AP or Honors courses.

“In the AP classes we can’t really stop the lecture, so essentially losing that day of class causes [students] to fall behind,” junior Alex Pan said. “Having to rush lectures or just miss them is not really worth it.”

However, Mohnike said that some faculty have experienced a shortened version of the program beforehand and that she has already notified teachers that students will miss some of their classes. She requested teachers to either repeat or alternate instruction so that students do not feel behind in their classes.

The founder of the Breaking Down the Walls program, Phil Boyte, is also the founder of the national LINK Crew program, so Mohnike thought it would be fitting for LINK leaders to be involved with the program.  

Furthermore, the program is not cheap. According to Mohnike, it cost $40,000, and was paid for by the Saratoga Education Foundation.

However, Mohnike said the program could be “life-changing” for some students. Although the school has never done Breaking Down the Walls before, Mohnike hopes students learn a lot from it.

“Mostly I just want students to have an open mind,” Mohnike said. “It's about listening to other people and they making those connections and making school a place where people want to come to — not just because they want grades or because it's a step to someplace else, but because it is a place they want to be.

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