An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Michelle V. '19

SAC (Student Awareness Council) is a student-driven group devoted to increasing awareness about a wide spectrum of social issues relevant to student life, both on and off the Lakeside campus. SAC’s current focus is on identifying existing tensions on the Lakeside campus and working in creative ways to understand and alleviate them. In doing so, we hope to strengthen the Lakeside community. As in previous years, SAC still prioritizes institutional change but also believes in the importance of individual discovery and have combined both beliefs in the creation of the SAC retreat, which covers large topics of identity and bias but with the goal of open discussion and the breaking of uncomfortable barriers. 

Every year, the Student Awareness Council takes a group of Upper School students on an overnight retreat to talk about gender, race, and socioeconomic class. An important part of the SAC retreat is the discussion of how these different facets of our identity intersect to create the unique experiences we have. The retreat is off campus, which helps create a safer place for individuals to express themselves and talk about important issues that are relevant in today’s world, as well as an opportunity to get to know more of the student body in a more comfortable setting. This year’s retreat was led by me, Rafael O. ’19, Megan M. ’20, and Aidan C. ’20.

I attended the SAC retreat as a participant two years ago. At the time, I was a sophomore and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to accomplish. I knew that I wanted to help the Lakeside community, but I didn’t know how. Little did I know, the SAC retreat would be the thing to help me get started. The retreat opened my eyes to a lot of things and I was glad that I finally got the chance to discuss these important issues with a group of people who genuinely wanted to listen and learn more about them. Because I loved the SAC retreat so much, I applied to be a leader for the council, and luckily, got the position.

For this year’s retreat, my fellow leaders and I (along with Ms. Chu) spent multiple meetings going over the curriculum and planning for it. To prepare for it, the leaders attended a six-hour long facilitation training the Friday before the retreat. We put a lot of work into making sure that it would be successful, and a huge part of this year’s success was also because of the cohort.

The 2018 SAC cohort was incredibly amazing. Each student that attended this year’s retreat did a wonderful job of engaging in vulnerability, something I think everyone should do a little more often. The retreat allowed for us to be a family, and I think that’s what makes the SAC retreat so special. As a leader, it felt rewarding to see how impactful the retreat turned out to be for so many people, including myself (for the second time around).

At the end of the retreat, we all exchanged numbers and upperclassmen advised the underclassmen to start talking to their friends more about these issues. Gender, race, and socioeconomic class affect our lives every day, but these are topics that are sometimes difficult to talk about with peers. As my time at Lakeside comes to an end, I encourage Lakesiders to take that leap of faith, because you’ll end up learning so much more, not only about your peers, but also about yourself.

To the younger grades, you all should apply for the SAC retreat next year! It’s really great :) I promise!