In early October, the sixth form attended the New Freedoms Day (NFD) at Newton Country Day School (NCDS). Organized by Peer Leaders from both Belmont Hill and NCDS, NFD provided an opportunity for both groups of seniors to discuss the issues surrounding sexual assault on college campuses, as well as the changes that each student will face at college next fall. “I think our main goals were to recognize the responsibilities that come along with our entry into college next year, and to appropriately respond to difficult situations,” said an NCDS Peer Leader.
Upon arrival, the students broke up into small discussion groups. The Peer Leaders assigned to each group asked questions not only about sexual assault, but also about the general transition to college and the challenges – namely avoidance of alcohol and drug abuse, increased academic responsibility, and the maintenance of overall health and well-being – that come along with it. In a new, co-ed environment, it was difficult for students to give strong opinions on these sensitive issues; numerous “ice-breaking” exercises helped to facilitate productive discussion. Next, the group conveyed in the NCDS auditorium to hear from three different speakers. Jay Civetti, a Belmont Hill alumni and the Head Football Coach at Tufts University, spoke about the importance of hard-work and respect for others during the transition to adulthood. Amanda Morejon, a sexual assault proctor at Harvard University, led an exercise where students, when called on, responded with specific words that first compared common sexual acts with behavior that is associated with sexual assault. Sarah Murray, a communications major at High Point University, covered the dangers of LSD and other hallucinogens that are often readily available around college campuses.
Perhaps most impactful, however, was a skit performed by students Brendan Pulsifer and Cecilio Barrera. A hypothetical college “hookup” scene, the dialogue of the skit highlighted the often hazy boundary between consent and rape.
Understandably, NFD understandably offered no immediate solution to a complex problem. The program, however, raised invaluable awareness that will help students – both male and female – to make informed, safe decisions come next fall.