Sixth formers reflect on a politically turbulent senior year

Illustration+by+Portia+Sockel+%2722.

Illustration by Portia Sockel ’22.

Following a turbulent year, the end of the Class of 2021’s time at the Hill School quickly approaches. 

The Hill School took an active approach after the events sparked by the death of George Floyd in the summer, turning the former Inclusion Council into the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Students and faculty read the book “Racial Profiling: Everyday Inequality” by Alison Marie Behnke and formally started a dialogue concerning racism in the United States. 

Many students found themselves newly aware of racial injustice in their own communities that they hadn’t recognized before. However, to many students of color, these stories and the emotions that followed them were all too familiar. 

“I’ve noticed a lot of my white peers being surprised or shocked at the experiences that people of color have been communicating as of recently,” Adam Benzinane ’21 said. “I completely understand why this happens, but it can still feel a bit insulting when some of my white peers are in disbelief at the discrimination that people of color face. We’ve been trying to communicate this for the longest time, and it’s nice that you’re listening now, but where were you before?” 

This sentiment is not unique. Past and current Hill students shared experiences with racism that happened at Hill on the @BlackAtHill Instagram account, making their stories visible to everyone. Many 6th formers found it exhausting to relieve these experiences. 

Naomi Ude ’21, Co-President of the DEI Council said, “I had always experienced racism in the South, but this summer was a deep dive into trauma. People think posting on BlackatHill is just us bringing up things that we’ve been dealing with for a long time, but for me personally, I had put a lot of that stuff in the back of my mind and to post things like that wasn’t easy. It takes you back to that place, but it needs to be done for future generations and for people to know and acknowledge that this is happening, this has happened, this is our experience as Black students, and that’s draining. To return to a school where some of your most traumatic experiences occurred after a summer so tumultuous is not a small ordeal.” 

Many 6th formers found themselves feeling trapped with the new restrictions due to the quick and aggressive rise of COVID-19. In a year where one is meant to experience Hill at its best, it was fatally disappointing for some. However, some students still found themselves being grateful for the opportunities offered to 6th formers that many seniors around the country were not given. 

Jasroop Dhingra ’21 said, “Being a senior during COVID has been disheartening at times since we haven’t been able to experience a traditional year. I do think that the school has done a great job of trying to provide enough opportunities or weekend activities, etc, to help make this an enjoyable year. ”

Dhingra looks forward to having an in-person graduation, something that many schools cannot do. 

Then came the 2020 election, a furious race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. This pushed tensions in the community. Still, the Class of ’21 persevered.

Although Andrew Chirieleison ’21 felt disappointed watching the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection, he was proud of the way Hill’s student body responded to it, including the other historic events that happened this year. “As a country, we must improve, and it starts with holding each other accountable and taking the necessary steps to move forward and grow inclusively as a nation. I will always remember this year and take great pride in being a member of a class that stood for change and lived in accordance with ‘whatsoever things are true,’Chirieleison said.