Perhaps it was the Islamic leader, rabbi, and reverend conversing in the Choir Room. Or maybe it was the small group sharing their personal stories in the Computer Lab. Wherever you turned, it was obviously not a standard morning at Newton South High School.
"Two Schools, One Book" came to Newton South on Friday. Led by Julie Sall and Brian Baron, the event focused on issues raised by "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers -- a book read by both Newton South and Newton North, which chronicled the experiences a Muslim-American in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The beginning assembly broke into both story-telling sessions and discussions with over 25 panelists of note, including religious leaders, journalists, law enforcement, a wrongly imprisoned exoneree, musicians, scientists, and other experts.
Panelists discussed Zeitoun-related issues, and then took questions from students. The story-telling sessions featured students and volunteers sharing their personal anecdotes.
“The power of Zeitoun is the power of the story," said Baron, head of the English Department. "And all of the ideas and emotions that kids had today come out that story. I don’t want the kids to walk away thinking that it has to be an unusual person...we have those stories right around us everyday."
Nanah Crosby, a senior from Dedham, was one student who participated in the program.
"I told my story…and I actually broke down," she said. "But I am proud that I told it. I’ve told my story to many of the English teachers on paper, but this was my first time telling it to people in school. I feel like I actually accomplished something, and I don’t regret doing it at all."
"Two Schools, One Book" will be holding a similar event at Newton North on Friday, October 14th.
Julie Sall, past president of the PTSL, was excited about the event's impact.
"It’s a day out of their normal school," she said. "They have the opportunity to hear from people with dissenting opinions, and ask questions of people that they might never meet. It opens their minds in a way that is really, really fascinating - and they remember it."
Sall and Baron hope to continue the event into the future.
"It's a labor of love," said Sall. "What we’re trying to do is corral that energy and to make kids think beyond the four walls of their classroom or their homes.”
Check out the school's YouTube video on the book and "Two Schools, One Book" progrma.