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The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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‘Breaking Down the Walls’ elicits positive feedback

Students gather in groups in the Peery Center during Palo Alto High School’s week-long Breaking Down the Walls. The event was designed to help students from different grades intermingle and foster unlikely unity. According to principal Brent Kline, primary organizer of the event, the main purpose was for students to meet new people and build community. “We’re friendly for the most part in our campus, but I felt that we could do more to connect students,” Kline said. ” Through Breaking Down the Walls, students meet people they might not have necessarily met and also participate in activities to share stories in a fun and mainly light-hearted way.” (Photo: Veronica Qiu)

Following a week-long event to encourage student unity on campus with activities ranging from running around the gym playing games to one-on-one conversations, students are buzzing with enthusiasm about their experience during the Breaking Down the Walls event.

Led by Jason Jedamski, the Breaking Down the Walls program is a unique opportunity for students and staff to connect, share their stories and realize “it’s hard to hate someone whose story you know” according the its website. All students were encouraged by administration to sign up and participate one day between Jan 23 – 25. Students could also apply to have a leadership role in the event to guide their fellow students in activities.

“Our philosophy is called play, trust, learn,” Jedamski said. “It gets people to do something silly, giggle, laugh and let them have some really simple conversations. They’re willing to learn and grow together. Our job is just to help people connect, and we know that if we’re able to do that, then they’re gonna have a good experience.”

According to sophomore Robyn Shi, the activity allowed students to interact with new, diverse groups of classmates. 

“We stood in a circle someone with people we had never met before and talked about our stories and life and dreams,” Shi said. “We talked about families, friends, our experiences, and what we wanted to do [in the future]. I feel closer to the Paly community since it’s not the way I normally talk with people.” 

Aside from meeting new peers, sophomore Ari Seeger said the experience helped students identify mutual interests. 

“I met a lot of students who I hadn’t spoken to before and it was an interesting and exciting experience to talk to people who I didn’t know,” Seeger said. “I definitely was surprised by how many experiences were common in so many people.” 

Sophomore Lillian Zhao said the fast-paced nature of the activities during the event made it difficult to foster deep connections with peers.

“I technically met a lot of people, but I can’t really remember most of the names,” Zhao said. “There wasn’t all that much free time given so we were mostly just following whatever prompt JJ came up with. We did a ton of mini activities, but a lot of it was meeting new people and ice breaking.”

Jedamski said the event was valuable in encouraging students to relax and take a step back from schoolwork in order to focus on their community.

“There’s several schools in the Bay Area that are similar to Paly, with high academic pressure,” Jedamski said. “A lot of the students have a harder time connecting with other people just because they put themselves in a bubble academically. There’s so much pressure that students kind of forget that they’re kids and that they need to have a little more fun and enjoy life.”

Attending the event required students to miss a day of school, which sophomore Diana Senderzon said was the reason she didn’t attend.

“I didn’t participate because I didn’t want to miss class and I also didn’t want to be stuck in a gym for the whole day,” Senderzon said. “I don’t think anything would’ve made me go unless it was mandatory.” 

Principal Brent Kline said the program was an invaluable experience for both students and teachers alike, facilitating unity among the entire Paly community.

“It was a complete joy as the principal to see kids and students just interacting with members of Paly that they don’t generally meet,” Kline said. “Even better, was days after that event, talking to students saying, ‘I’m saying hi to more people than I had before.’ That’s the purpose, breaking down the walls.” 

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About the Contributors
Allison Ma
Allison Ma, Culture Editor
Allison Ma (Class of 2026) joined The Paly Voice her sophomore year and enjoys running, baking and watching TV shows.
Sophia Yang
Sophia Yang, Senior Staff Writer
Sophia Yang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice her sophomore year and enjoys running, hiking, and spending long afternoons reading.

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    AndyFeb 9, 2024 at 5:04 pm

    Wonderful piece. Vamos!!!