No Place For Hate Program Strives to Create a Safe Atmosphere in Schools

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Gabriella Bello

Spanish teachers Fernanda Villalba and Lorena Sanchez mentor the No Place For Hate program here at SJHHS. NP4H is an anti-hate high school program through the ADL whose goal is to stop bias and bullying in order to create a positive community for students.

Gabriella Bello, Staff Writer

With the increased emphasis surrounding people’s race, ethnic backgrounds, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc., there is a need to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone in society, which includes schools. No Place For Hate is a student-involved program here at SJHHS that strives to stop biases and bullying in the community in order to bring people closer together. 

From 2019 up until last year, SJHHS had an on-campus program known as Bridges, that strived to create a safe community for students. However, starting this year, the Anti-Defamation League is sponsoring the transition from Bridges into No Place For Hate. The ADL is an international anti-hate organization that fights against anti-semitism, as well as bias and discrimination. 

NP4H is made up of 52 students with Fernanda Villalba and Lorena Sanchez as their mentors. Students in the program are nominated by teachers and staff to fill out an application. This year, there were close to 90 nominations.

“We tried to have better diversity this year. Now that we have more of a reputation and it’s more of a school-wide program, we want to make sure we have representation from all walks of life…all different races, gender fluidity, religions…we really want to make sure that everyone is a part of it and has their voice heard,” said Villalba.

It’s been really cool to meet some of the great students on campus and have connections and form those relationships that are outside of the classroom, but at the same time are super important”

— Fernanda Villalba

The program meets on the second Thursday of each month. During the meetings, students brainstorm ideas on ways to improve the campus culture, including activities or workshops they can host to help create an inclusive atmosphere.

Recently, NP4H had an all-day convention on campus where speakers from the ADL came to talk to  students about strategies they can use in their daily lives to decrease hate. The convention also helped students  realize biases they might have and educated them on how to stop or work around them.

“I can just tell that the people who are there really want to be there and really want to enlist change and just enact to empower their communities, and it’s just a really cool environment to be in when all of you are brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other that are for change,” said senior Kristina Sabad, a student who has joined the program this year. 

The students act as a “task force” in NP4H, highlighting topics they believe are most pressing and observing  what is happening on campus to find areas for growth.

Some events that NP4H puts on are the Multicultural Fair, where students learn about the many cultures of the world, as well as Unity Week where presentations are made to inform students about specific topics like bullying and mental health. 

“I really love being involved. And especially since I’m Hispanic as well…like my dad’s Peruvian, my mom’s Columbian…I might be able to use my bilinguisy to break the language barrier and get more kids involved in school activities,” said senior Alek Bakovic, a student in his second year of the program. 

The stepping stones to stopping hate is accepting the different perspectives of people and trying to understand their experiences, instead of bringing them down. No Place For Hate encourages people to be supportive and open minded of others. 

“I really like to see the richness that we have on campus and just these amazing students that really are passionate about bringing love, respect, and bringing people together. So it’s been really cool to meet some of the great students on campus and have connections and form those relationships that are outside of the classroom, but at the same time are super important. And I think that’s what makes our school special,” said Villalba.