Students from Hazelwood West High School in St. Louis who are involved in the Gateway2Change program came to Sedalia on Nov. 20 to see the differences between their school and Smith-Cotton High School.
Gateway2Change is a program that aims to fight racism on the high school level. For the students from Hazelwood West, coming from a district that has four different high schools, getting to see a more rural, “isolated” school put them in a significantly different atmosphere.
“Going from a place that’s crazy and there’s always something going on to a place that’s more isolated and to itself, you can definitely see how much more calm it is right away,” said Hazelwood West junior Lee Russell.
“There (are) less people and it’s a lot more friendly and intimate. Everybody seems to know each other and is cool with one another,” said Ishmaiah Moore, a Hazelwood West freshman.
Along with shadowing the Gateway program students from Smith-Cotton, the Hazelwood group also got a tour of Sedalia. Stops included the Trails End monument on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, a brief drive through the downtown area with a review of the history of Scott Joplin and the creation of ragtime; this was followed by a tour of Bothwell Lodge and the history of John Homer Bothwell and his involvement in the City of Sedalia.
After the tour, the groups met at the Katy Depot for a discussion of how different things are between the two schools, along with a takeaway from the day’s observations. Students from both schools agreed it can be hard for new students to be accepted in groups or clubs that may have a different clique. This keeps some students from being involved in something they may really want to participate in, just because of the fear that they don’t belong. Both schools also agreed to start spreading the word to become more accepting.
“It starts with us, there’s no point in talking about it if we’re not going to be about it,” Moore said. “We need to be the first ones to bring in new people and make them feel welcome.”
To wrap-up the day’s conversation, the Sedalia group was asked what they think Hazelwood West will be like when they visit Monday. Based on what the Hazelwood students had told him, senior Devin Hill expects it to be a little more active with a lot more people.
“They said how their school is more loud and crazy but we both do see our differences,” Hill said. “I’ve learned that we have different perspectives on our schools and communities but we (S-C and Hazelwood) both respect those differences.”
Eli Kemp is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.