West United: A Beacon of Hope for Future Students

West United: A Beacon of Hope for Future Students

Allison Glaush, Guest Writer

Most High School students have felt as though they are alone in the world and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of homework and tests. And every student has wished that someone would make a difference and help their community feel safe.

West United, an organization in Central Bucks West lead by Justin Rubenstein, Mary McDonald, and Alison Stone, is a welcoming initiative that does just that. It centers around the representation of everyone in West and works to make a community that encourages everyone to be themselves.

This initiative started in 2018 when Mr. Donovan brought ADL Training, or the Anti-Defamation League, to CB West, knowing the power that education can have. When reflecting on the experience, Mary McDonald said that “it was one of the most powerful trainings I had ever been a part of. It was 30 students and 2 staff members, and it was 3 full days. And by the time we were done we just didn’t want it to end. It was a really wonderful experience, learning about the students, learning about my peers, and trying to make a change in the building to make sure everybody is welcome.”

But Covid did not deter this determined group of teachers, administrators, and students from continuing their efforts. They were able to hold an online student voice day in which students online and in person were able to meet and participate in this experience. They then reorganized and formed a more cohesive unit in Spring of 2021 once Covid allowed them to be all together again. The evolution of the group was seen in a more inclusive title: West United. The name is to give hope for students because it was formed to give them a voice.

An example of the club giving the students a voice was in April of 2021, when West United ran a Diversity Panel. The goal of the event was to get students from CB West to talk with a moderator from Penn State about the issues facing the student population. Having it in a virtual setting did not stop the students from having their voices heard and taking another step towards creating a more welcoming community.

West United continued to take steps towards a welcoming environment when they applied for a grant from CB Cares to help support the student’s return to school in the 2021-2022 school year. This was approved and awarded CB West with a $12,000 grant to work with Tom Stecher. These funds enabled West United to run two Student Voice Days and staff training to further the learning of teachers and students create a more welcoming environment.

Because of the three student voice days, West United was finally on the right path to making a difference in West. The students felt comfortable enough to share their opinions, giving West United a vivid picture of what the students wanted the building to be like. Keeping these hopes in mind, a new system was implemented: the goals for the next three months, six months, and one year. In other words, it is goal setting for the future. A very strong group of students have really taken the lead in helping run the initiatives. They have helped in creating ideas to continue to build upon the rich traditions and community at West to make it be more like the building the students envision it one day being.

This building doesn’t include stigmas such as the one revolving around the word “guidance”. Over the years, going to the Guidance Counselor has developed a negative connotation, deterring students from seeking help even when they may need it. West United has in their six-month plan to change the title of Guidance Counselor to Student Services. This would make a statement to the students and hopefully inspire them to feel less tentative to seek help in a place made to service the students.

Another part of their six-month plan is to work with Bucks Embrace to allow the students to expand their knowledge on different cultures through food. This will occur in the Fall of 2022.

West United isn’t limited to only one group, however. They are, as Mary McDonald said, an “Umbrella club with a variety of other clubs that have similar initiatives”. Within West United, there are many subsections, including SAGA, Brown Student Union, and many more. All the clubs have one thing in common and that is their ultimate goal: to make a better environment for the students.

To see this goal come true, West United has worked to spread their platform through social media such as Instagram and Twitter. Ms. Alison Stone and Mr. Justin Rubenstein run the accounts, Ms. Stone running their Instagram and Mr. Rubenstein running their Twitter. While they oversee the accounts, the posts are created by the students. Most recently, they have generated posts with the help of other students about Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Women’s History Month. Updates about fundraisers and other events are put up on the accounts in hopes of reaching the student body.

This social media presence certainly furthers the reach of West United, but that is not all the students are doing. They have also worked with Caroline Colman to create a new logo, one that symbolizes how we can be united as one.

Unity is very possibly the most important thing for students, and the determined members of West United saw this and decided to make a change in the world around them. It is an admirable hope and a huge task, but West United has and will continue to work endlessly to make a better world for current and future students, one day at a time.