Bangor High School is seen in this 2019 file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

There is an abundance of thought-provoking information about racial injustice, included in the recent revelations from students at Bangor High School. The courage displayed by these students has made us pause and consider our understanding about diversity and consequently how we conduct ourselves as supporters of people of color. Their voice has made us think about how our community fits into the larger discussion now happening across this nation. For these reasons, I feel compelled to add my perspective as a school counselor.

I have a deep admiration for the students who shared their story and for their desire to seize upon an epic moment. I recognize that their outpouring of emotions is meant to drive positive change and I want to ensure them that we share that goal. We are in a paradigm-shifting moment and I am hopeful that our society can make real progress regarding diversity and inclusion. I wish to honor their call for equity and ensure good will for the people of color in our community.

It is my hope that respondents to this discussion will appreciate the civil discourse and will avoid hateful rhetoric toward the school and our students. Conversely, I welcome comments that embrace the spirit and intent of these students, and that provide helpful feedback.

Racism, and discrimination have long been a part of society and sadly, we are now reminded that it is still here. For example, when Charlie Howard lost his life 36 years ago, we had to face our collective lack of understanding regarding the LGBTQ community. We had to re-evaluate the way we parented, taught and communicated with our children, and now we are in a similar position regarding race. Understanding individual differences requires a willingness to embrace something that is unique from our own experience. Recent national events surrounding racial injustice have moved our youngest activists to call for this understanding to happen now. This wake up call has been heard loud and clear.

In Bangor, as in most communities, the school is a leading force for progress. The academic program that we provide has produced generations of business and community leaders. We are a social center for the city that often creates unity and camaraderie. Therefore, we are an institution that is naturally set up to lead in making progress toward social justice, and this is the time for us to lead.

Bangor High School is staffed by highly competent and dedicated people, all of whom want to do what is best for our students. But we are human. We recognize that we have a lot to learn and we know that to teach, we must first learn. This movement will require us to examine our own privilege, so that we may understand the circumstances faced by our students. We can’t change who we are, but we can change what we know and how we act. I am confident our people will accept the responsibility of making Bangor a better place for people of color.

Change does not come easily and we need to accept the discomfort that will come with growth. We cannot be afraid to be more inclusive because our efforts might be panned by a critical portion of society. The school must stand for equality because it is the right thing to do. In addition, I hope that the excitement that these students have started for people of color will also benefit women, religious minorities, the LGBTQ community and individuals with disabilities, as well as those experiencing challenges due to mental health or poverty.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the World.” Bangor High School is a great school. We must understand that we possess the ability to make great change and we thank our students for reminding us of that fact.

Adam Leach is the director of school counseling at Bangor High School.