SBHS Student-Teacher Team: Visionaries for 2015 Dialogue Nights

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Wednesday March 11, 2015

“Gender issues prescribed by societal norms can be very harmful to women and men. And that’s not the way it has to be.”
—Melissa Arioli

From the moment Melissa Arioli saw the documentary Miss Representation in her Women’s Studies class taught by Krista Huling at South Burlington High School (SBHS), she knew it was worthy of a larger audience: “I thought the film should be required for everyone to see because it makes you really think about the media’s impact on all of us.”

Meanwhile SBHS technology educator Nissa Kauppila had been looking for ways to allow the high school and Vermont International Film Foundation (VTIFF) to partner: “We have such great resources at SBHS, and we also have this phenomenal organization that brings social justice films to the community. How could we get them together?”

Ms. Kauppila, working closely with VTIFF’s Seth Jarvis, was able to pilot one film last spring, First Generation. “It was the perfect film to show junior and senior students,” she reflected, “since it tells the story of students who are the first generation to go to college, and we have students at SBHS who are going through the same thing.”

The positive response inspired those involved to ask, “What other potential is out there?”

“That’s when Melissa came in saying, ‘There’s this wonderful film and I want to bring it to South Burlington,’” recalled Ms. Kauppila. “We knew immediately this was a great idea, and the fact that Melissa as a student was leading the effort with so much enthusiasm was even better. She was the spark to get it going.”

The student-teacher team with the support of PACT (Parents and Adults Celebrating Children and Teens) decided that the annual Dialogue Night was the perfect venue to showcase not only Miss Representation (which examines the media’s portrayal of society’s expectations of women) but also the newly released The Mask You Live In by the same director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, which examines the impact of media on men. “It seemed really important to look at both the female and male perspective,” explained Ms. Arioli. “Gender issues prescribed by societal norms can be very harmful to women and men. And that’s not the way it has to be.”

“Education is a partnership between student and teacher,” reflected Ms. Kauppila, “and this has been a wonderful example of that. VTIFF is one way we can learn and celebrate many different cultures that not everyone may have access to. I hope this collaboration between VTIFF, PACT, and SBHS will continue to blossom into something really fabulous that’s the glue that lets people stick together. Film can do that.”
“I’m so happy everything has fallen into place,” noted Ms. Arioli. “However, this never would have happened if it weren’t for the support of the teachers at SBHS - Nissa being one of many. Teachers at the high school really support students not just academically but on all of their ideas. This allows students to get involved and try to leave their high school a better place.”

Clearly this high school senior has fulfilled that goal well.

See The Mask You Live In at Dialogue Night 2, March 17, 6:30 p.m. at South Burlington High School, 550 Dorset Street. The event is free and open to the public. For questions, please call 238-1054.

SOURCE: Susie Merrick, Contributor