Every January, students at Asheville School pause their standard curriculum studies to reflect on and learn about the multifaceted topic of civil rights. Students and faculty members come together to create conversations, stretch outside of their comfort zones, and learn about topics of civil rights that affect people from all walks of life.
This year, Civil Rights Day will see a number of educational opportunities and workshops offered by faculty members and students. Workshops include topics like environmental justice, civil rights for people with disabilities, and women's rights in developing nations.
Asheville School's Director of Community Pluralism Randy Mengel organized the event and hopes to give students the chance to think critically about civil rights.
"Students need to be informed and learn how to ask questions," Mengel said. "That is precisely what we're going after: allowing students to take the lead, to educate their peers, and to design and ask great questions that will stimulate curiosity."
In addition to attending workshops on campus, students will be encouraged to take the conversations into the community. Mengel wants students to venture into the Asheville community to inspire them to take action in support of civil rights.
"It is crucial that we get off campus and engage with others," Mengel said. "I hope that we can move away from a passive experience, and that by highlighting issues of personal interest and community importance, students might get excited and passionate about sharing their perspectives."
Students may attend the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County's 36th Annual Prayer Breakfast, Peace March and Rally, and Candlelight Service. They also have the option to travel to Hall Fletcher Elementary for a morning of service and a roundtable discussion.
On Sunday, January 15, alumnus and board member Nishant Mehta '98, who is Head of School at The Children's School in Atlanta, Georgia, will speak at convocation. Mehta has extensive experience in planning and advocating for diversity initiatives in educational settings.
Associate Head of School Jay Bonner is pleased to welcome Mehta back to campus for the address. "We are sure to witness as part of our Civil Rights Day program his wit and passion and conviction, his ability to articulate his thoughts and principles with grace and style," Bonner said. "Our students are fortunate to have his story as part of our vision of an inclusive Asheville School—and America."
On Monday, January 16, Kane Smego will address the Asheville School community. Smego is a spoken word poet who travels to campuses sharing talks on the importance of social justice.Mengel hopes that Civil Rights Day will empower students by celebrating their experiences and perspectives. "It is important that these students know that every one of their perspectives is unique and valued in our community and in this world," he said.