With the Russian invasion of Ukraine beginning three weeks ago on February 24, many international communities and organizations have shown support for Ukraine by providing humanitarian aid in the form of care packages and donations.
This sentiment extends to our own Bedford community, with the rise of Ukrainian support efforts among local businesses and within the high school. Flight Coffee, a popular local coffee shop, started a donation drive called “Backpacks of Love”, collecting items such as book bags, first aid kits, menstrual supplies, water bottles, coloring books, and more. This past weekend, they consolidated and organized all the donations, putting together numerous “Backpacks of Love” for refugees in Ukraine.
In addition to the support from Flight Coffee, many efforts have been spearheaded by students at BHS. Last Tuesday, March 8, at the town election, BHS Medlife hosted a bake sale with 100% of the proceeds donated to Sunflower of Peace, a non-profit organization founded in Boston dedicated to helping Ukrainians affected by the Russian military invasion. Sunflower of Peace intends to provide resources including first-aid backpacks, medicine, and medical instruments that can be used by paramedics and doctors in Ukraine. Selling baked goods from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Medlife raised over $1000 for Sunflower of Peace, their most successful fundraising initiative this school year.
Another initiative sparked by BHS students was a peaceful demonstration held last Friday, March 11, on the corner of 101 and Wallace. Organized by senior Lily Mooney, the demonstration extended after school to 6:00 pm, with over thirty students and ten community members in attendance. Although the demonstration was successful, there were some challenges faced concerning its promotion within the high school. With the help of other students, Lily made numerous flyers and posters that contained information about the demonstration and QR codes linked to educational resources and trustworthy organizations accepting donations. However, to get the posters approved, they first had to be affiliated with a BHS organization; in the words of Mr. Jozokos, “Everything that gets put up in hallways, including signs and posters, is connected to the school. We don’t allow outside organizations or individual students/community members to put up posters in the hallways (there is one place for those, the board near the main office)”. After getting the posters sponsored by BHS Medlife, Lily was then able to hang up the informational posters around the school. However, the school administration did not approve posters regarding the demonstration since the circumstances were more complex. When Lily asked Mr. Jozokos about the situation, he initially explained that the Russia-Ukraine conflict is categorized as a political issue, and the school is unable to take a stance on subjects dealing with politics. Mr. Jozokos was later asked to clarify his statement, bu he did not elaborate on his classification of the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a political issue, but he did address that once the informational posters were “sponsored by a BHS club, Lily was then able to get them approved through Mr. Guerard’s office and they were hung up around school”. In addition, a BHS teacher adds that since there is always a possible risk associated with demonstrations- even when they are peaceful- the school did not want to be affiliated with these possible risks.
In response, Lily believes that the school is wrongfully deeming the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine political, as the intention behind the demonstration was not incendiary, but rather to show compassion and support for Ukrainian citizens. She further states that “taking down posters stating ‘Bedford Stands With Ukraine’ seems like the school is taking a stance on the issue after all”. Although advertisements for the demonstration were prohibited around the school, Lily was able to put up a poster on the bulletin board near the main office that is dedicated to community events. Despite the promotional difficulties due to school regulations, many teachers did support the demonstration by encouraging student participation, and some even attended themselves.
Lily hopes that her efforts allow BHS students and the rest of the community to become more involved with the current humanitarian crisis faced by Ukrainian citizens: “I don’t want Bedford to be untouched by this pressing issue, even if it is happening across the world”. If you would like to learn more, check out @students.with.ukraine on Instagram.