From the few weeks leading up to the 2020 election to shortly after the events of January 6, the counseling department at Lexington High School offered community circles to provide support for students during these unprecedented times. They hoped to create a space for students to talk through and process current events. An email with a Google Form attached was provided for students to sign up for community circles in November and January. Community circles consisted of groups of three to four students with one to two facilitators and meetings were less than an hour long.
The community circles were set up similarly to advisory at LHS in an effort to make students feel comfortable when sharing.
“The idea that there is a check-in, going around in a circle, and questions to respond to, so it felt very similar in terms of the structure to advisory but the content was designed to provide a more open-ended space for students to process everything that was going on in the moment,” Jeremie Bateman, a LHS counselor who helped organize community circles, said.
Topics of the November community circles ranged from COVID-19 to the election.
“The questions were really intentionally framed to be sort of openers to the space rather than we are going to talk about the election or we are going to talk about COVID,” Bateman said.
Students were able to benefit not only through discussing difficult topics, but also from engaging with other people.
“In a tough year, such as this one when people are feeling isolated, it’s harder to get connections in the community, participating in community circles is one active way that people can start to, not just express what they are holding inside about what’s happening this year, but also have a chance to connect with other people they might not have a chance to otherwise,” Esther Kim, another counselor at LHS who helped create community circles, said.
An unique feature of the community circles was that they allowed students to talk with other students of the same identity.
“ I would say one thing that made community circles different from advisory is that there was an option to have sort of the same identity group gathering. It was really important for me to be able to offer those spaces for students who wanted to have a space to discuss with people who have a shared identity how they have been particularly impacted, ” Bateman said.
Community circles offered by the counseling department promoted accessibility to a support system and a safe place for more students.
“ [T]he folks who came to my group were like, ‘I can never make it to GSA, so it’s nice to also have this,’ so it was a reminder to me that just because we have support systems in place doesn’t mean that they are always accessible to everyone,” Bateman said when discussing his facilitation of an LGBTQ+ affinity group.
Looking forward, the LHS counseling department is considering how to strengthen student involvement in community circles.
“ I do think trying to figure out different ways to get more students in is the next step. It’s hard in a school like this especially when we’re remote. Students were involved as participants, they were not involved in creation. So if this continues, I would love to see that,” Bateman said.