Unity Week: Islanders Share Their Thoughts

During the week of March 14, the MIHS community celebrated “Unity Week.” Leadership, Radio, Marketing and International Entrepreneurship led a variety of activities including handing out wristbands, posting signs around Mercer Island thanking local groups and writing cards to incoming sixth and ninth graders in the district.

Staff writers Kyle Gerstel and Ashwin Krishnaswamy asked the MIHS community what Unity Week means to them. Here’s what they had to say:

“I think it’s going pretty well,” ASB President Conor Mulligan said. “As a whole, it’s not as in-your-face as other events, but I do think a lot of people participate.”

“It’s the spirit of what we need to be about every day of the whole year,” principal Walter Kelly said. “I really appreciate that there are tangible things that people are doing to send that message, and I hope that we remember those all year.”

Some spoke less enthusiastically about the event’s execution. 

“I think the concept is great, but I don’t know how much they’ve done to tell us what it entails, and what activities they’re doing for Unity Week,” junior Abby Weiss said.

“I find it funny that Unity Week is one of our only four-day weeks,” senior Maggie Petersen said. “We can’t even dedicate a whole week to unity? I guess they probably chose that because they couldn’t think of any activities to actually unify us.

“The only thing I remember doing for Unity Week was writing letters to the elementary and middle schoolers, and while that was a good idea, in what way does it unify us here at the high school? Unity Week was a good idea, but if you‘re not going to do anything to actually unify us, what’s the point?”

“Pointing out a specific week as Unity Week implies that the other weeks aren’t, so I think that’s kind of weird,” sophomore Nicholas Phillips Jr. said. “Shouldn’t every week be Unity Week without saying so?”

“Unity Week is less about having a huge event going on and more about just having a background idea of bringing the school together,” Mulligan said. “Including people when they’re sitting down at lunch, in discussions, hearing other people’s views. It’s mostly just the acceptance and inclusion idea.”

“I think it’s kind of like African-American History Month,” AP Biology teacher Larry Bencivengo said. “If all you do is one time of the year, you devote some attention to a topic, that’s not good enough. It’s good to draw attention to topics that people tend to ignore, but definitely more needs to be done on a regular basis. I think it’s fair to say that the school tries to do that.”

“It remains to be seen what the broader effects will be, whether it changes anybody’s behavior overall, or how they feel about school or each other,” special education teacher Mary Woodgate said. “But… I’m hopeful.”

Security Liaison John-Lewis argues that despite the performative nature of Unity Week, it still has benefits. “I think it’s good, but is it just checking a box?” John-Lewis said. “I believe this environment is a checkboxy environment, but trying to bridge people together is a positive thing, so even if it brings up a discussion, there’s a positive.”