At Lake Washington Girls Middle School (LWGMS), thirty-four eighth grade girls have embarked on a mission to change Seattle. Throughout the year, the students have participated in monthly workshops on issues like identity and ally-ship, as well as explorations of historical movements for social change. This program, in conjunction with the social studies curriculum, gave students the time and space to examine privilege and oppression and to develop tools to become agents of change.
Walls to Bridges has opened so many new paths for me in how to change the world. It gave me the tools to seek out injustices and help change them. It has opened the door to how to be an ally and to recognize my own privilege and my responsibility to help make change.
–Stella, LWGMS, Class of 2016.
Walls to Bridges has showed me that everyone is capable of doing something to make the world a better place, but it won't happen if we just sit around. If helped me understand that if you are not ready to take on something big then you can start small and work your way up. You will make a difference no matter what you do.
–Ella, LWGMS, Class of 2016.
The Walls to Bridges program has taught me that I can make a big difference starting with a small action.
–Greta, LWGMS, Class of 2016.
Walls to Bridges has taught me that making change isn't easy but always starts with something small. It starts with recognizing my own biases and seeing how relevant things are in my world that didn’t always seem pertinent to my life.
–Mara, LWGMS, Class of 2016.
Walls to Bridges tells you to sit down and write about what makes you angry, and by the time you're finished you have released everything that was holding you down. There is no better feeling than having said what you exactly thought.
–Vera, LWGMS, Class of 2016
As a citizen of Seattle, I feel that it is crucial to acknowledge issues that our society faces and take action on them before anyone else is hurt.
–Maddie, LWGMS, Class of 2016.
The eighth grade class selected one injustice to focus on for the final project, and they decided to engage in a direct action campaign about transgender bathroom rights, a topic that has recently been in the headlines. The class examined the injustices faced by the transgender community and learned about the discrimination and harassment that occurs when trying to use public restrooms. A recent study shows that 70% of transgender people have experienced a negative reaction while in their preferred restroom. Most experienced verbal harassment, threats, questions about their gender, or stares and strange looks. More alarmingly, the students learned that 9% of trans people were physically assaulted such as being forcibly removed from a restroom, hit, kicked, or even slapped.
Using the skills learned in class, the students have taken up a stance of support of creating equality for transgender people in public bathrooms around the city. These students are raising awareness of the dire situation around the harassment of transgender and genderfluid persons in bathrooms across the country. They are passing out stickers to local businesses and spreading the word through social media. Why are they doing this? Because these students have learned about the importance of standing up for those who are being hurt, whether physically or emotionally, the power of defending the rights of all people.
To spread awareness, they have created a Direct Action Campaign called Peequality. On June 11 and 12, 2016, the students will distribute posters and stickers that explain the issue and that show support for the basic right of having safe spaces. The stickers and posters can be placed in stores to show that the business supports transgender bathroom rights and will protect transgender people from harassment and discrimination. The students have created a website and instagram account where additional information on their campaign can be found.
About Lake Washington Girls Middle School
Lake Washington Girls Middle School, Seattle's first middle school for girls, located in Central Seattle, is a place where girls explore, experiment, discover, create, and learn about themselves and the world around them. Since 1998, LWGMS has challenged its students with high standards and helped every LWGMS girl find the tools she needs to succeed. Here, girls are empowered to think critically, develop leadership, and enjoy learning through an integrated curriculum proven to prepare girls for success in high school honors and college preparation courses.
Our students are learning to use tools that will serve them well: hand tools, power tools, digital tools, and the tools of their own strong voices. They work with computing platforms alongside hammers and saws and sewing machines. They are take apart computers and build their own. They are making films, which allows them to own and create media in a way that no generation before them could do. They are sewing clothes that light up and they are 3-D printing a robotic hand. More importantly, they are learning that they have the power to solve problems, to innovate, and to invent. And that is really what we are teaching them: to find solutions, to overcome obstacles. We are teaching them that struggle and failure are normal – and that effort is a crucial part of eventual success.
The creative confidence the girls get while they are at Lake Washington Girls Middle School completely translates beyond any classroom.