WelcOMe hOMe is a community-building event run by faculty, aiming to strengthen the connections between students and teachers in OM. The faculty that ran the most recent event on October 28th consisted of Ms. Hewitt, a physical education teacher, Ms. Florida who works in the library, and Mr. Ringgold who works within the black student achievement program (BSAP). Planning this event took 10-15 hours, not including the aspects that were already set from previous years. There were about 80 participants that had to be accounted for in group making, shirt ordering, and of course, lunch.
The event sign-up form was sent out in Canvas through the Oakland Mills Student Community page. All teachers and students had the opportunity to sign up and participate; however, not all students were able to because of the capacity for the event. With Covid in mind, the faculty is always prioritizing keeping us safe. Therefore, we of course had to keep our masks on the whole time besides eating or drinking. When I asked Ms. Fick, who is a guidance counselor that organizes WelcOMe hOMe, what changes were made this year, she said, “Major adjustments were being mindful of social distancing and limiting direct contact along with incorporating more activities and conversations to foster connections and build stronger sense of community”.
Among the 80 participants, 14 staff members and interns were involved. We started the day by being put in our groups of five to eight people, which we called our “home groups”. These groups included one faculty member and students from all grade levels. We did most of the activities with that group and got to know each other. However, my favorite part was how we started and ended the day the same, in a big circle around the gym. It symbolized our connection and unity at that moment and brought the day full circle.
I saw a lot of familiar faces which made me feel more comfortable, but I did not know anyone in my group. That didn’t stop me from sharing personal information that I have only shared with a select few people. I felt like I was able to speak my mind and that my personal information would not be shared with anyone else besides the group. I also found a lot of people in my group had similar experiences. It feels so good to know that people nearby had similar experiences during the pandemic. At the end of welcOMe hOMe during the circle, a lot of people said they felt heard and loved. It was a moving experience and was a really good community-building event. I would encourage all students to sign up for the next session of welcOMe hOMe on December 16th!