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Humanities at HW

By Izzy ’22

Harvard-Westlake is well known for having endless STEM opportunities. I remember getting to see the robotics room on my Family Visiting Day and being in awe of such creativity. However, as equally impressive are HW’s students who are creative in other forms, specifically with the humanities. Whether it is through the Middle School’s Spectrum magazine to the Upper School’s Ethics Bowl team, the opportunities for humanities-inclined students are endless! There are journalism classes, two literary publications, a sports publication, a newspaper, a world language magazine, a slam poetry team, a history bowl team, a debate team, and so much more. And through all of these facets, HW students consistently earn awards at state and national levels.

As for my connection to humanities at HW, I serve as a junior editor on Stone-Cutters, our nationally ranked arts collective that publishes art in the written and visual forms. We curate a winter tabloid and spring publication each year. Last year, we even won the Gold Crown award from Columbia University Press for our spring issue. My favorite part about being on Stone-Cutters is getting to read all of the literary submissions from my peers. It is astonishing in the best way to read the incredible poems and short stories created by members of our own community, and I love getting to pick the pieces that fit our publications. With the pandemic, we had to readjust our normal curation process to Zoom but still managed to put out an issue that featured art created by students solely during the quarantine. It ended up being one of my favorite publications we have ever put out.  I also am a member of our Ethics Bowl team. We debate cases that center on moral dilemmas and compete in regional tournaments. In a truly ethical fashion, you get points for being polite to the other team! Ethics Bowl is one of my favorite extracurriculars because it forces you to put emotions aside and to think about current events from a purely academic, moral perspective. History Bowl is another humanities opportunity that I participate in. We have practices during the week and compete against teams from across the nation on the weekends, testing our history knowledge from any time period (literally – one question could be about the War of 1812 and the next could be about ancient Egypt).

Outside of clubs, I am also on the team reviving the Wider Than the Sky Poetry Festival at HW. A few years ago, Harvard-Westlake hosted this festival in person, bringing together the broader Los Angeles poetry community with guest speakers, workshops, and an open mic portion. Excitingly, a group of juniors and seniors have come together to bring back the festival for this year and hopefully years to come. We approached the administration in August for funds to make our goal a reality, and after listening to our proposal, they agreed! With their support, we have been able to book five nationally renowned poets to come to speak and lead workshops including Amanda Gorman, the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate who attended the festival when she was in high school. We, the students, are also running workshops leading up to the festival in April. Just today, I ran my first workshop centering on political and protest poetry in the wake of the 2020 election. We analyzed work by Maya Angelou and Danez Smith, then wrote our own protest poems, giving students a safe space to express themselves during such a tumultuous time. Harvard-Westlake’s unwavering support enables its students like myself to not only find their passions but actualize their goals. Lastly, with the help of the theater department, I am in the process of writing my first play! Every year, HW hosts the Playwrights Festival, showcasing student playwrights and employing student actors and directors to put them on. If I did not go to Harvard-Westlake, I am not sure if I ever would have discovered my love for this art form at the time that I did.

In summation, I am so incredibly grateful for Harvard-Westlake’s support of the humanities. Whether it is through the plethora of after school clubs to the play and poetry festivals, HW makes their students feel like they matter and that their dreams are valid. I have made some of my closest friends through humanities opportunities and am thrilled to make even more as I still find myself discovering new opportunities to pursue my interests, even as a junior. So, if you find yourself wanting to attend a school that truly values the humanities and wants to give you the resources to pursue it, then Harvard-Westlake is the place for you.

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Tags: , , , Last modified: November 10, 2020