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Topol fellowships in peace and nonviolence

Sidney Topol '41 announcing the 2018-2019 Topol Fellows.

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The reciting of key human rIghts-related statistics to kick off each session of Human Rights Day.

above upper: Alisa Regassa performing her MOTH story, winter 2020

above lower: Ms. Rose Delorme-Metayer performing her MOTH story, winter 2020.

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MOTH presenters and Topol Fellows at the close of a daylong MOTH stories event.

Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, a group of Boston Latin School seniors, drawn from an array of juniors who had taken Facing History at the school and studied peace initiatives and non-violence strategies in that course, annually have been named Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence.   Each cohort has initiated projects at the school that advanced awareness of peace and non-violence on a local, regional, national, and global scale.

 

Sidney Topol ‘41 has been one of the foremost proponents in the United States of efforts to achieve peace and advocate non-violence in this nation.  The son of immigrants, Mr. Topol is a classic American success story, becoming an engineer and early cable television executive.   He has been politically active for decades and has been a friend to nearly every U.S. President for the past 45 years.   He has channeled his resources into investments in education, tied to his passion for peace and non-violence.  On the board of Americans for Peace Now, he has fervently advocated for a durable Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace based firmly on a two-state solution, with a viable, independent Palestine AND Israel.   For more detail about Sid Topol's career and philanthropy, visit this website created by his college alma mater, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

 

In addition to supporting non-governmental organizations and advocating peaceful solutions to local, national, and global problems, Sid Topol has created Topol fellowship programs at UMass Amherst and Boston, Harvard’s Kennedy School, Yale, Tufts, Brandeis and at the University of Haifa.   Boston Latin’s Topol Fellowship program is the largest of these fellowship programs, with nearly 100 fellows to date.  

 

Each year’s cohort begins work in June of their junior year, brainstorming to develop an ambitious menu of potential projects that the group will carry out during their senior year.   Not all of the numerous projects they propose come to fruition.   Yet many do and they are distinguished by meticulous attention to detail, a keen desire to share knowledge, and a desire to create memorable and informative initiatives.     The Topol Fellows work together as a team from different social, extracurricular, gender, racial and ethnic groups to create an array of projects that directly impact the school and its core values.

The inaugural cohort of 12 Topol fellows (2016-2017) instituted several significant projects:

  • painted 14 student restrooms, after documenting the decades of offensive, intolerant, sexist-, raciallly-, ethnically-, religiously-offensive graffiti,  in brilliant colors as well as identified broken fixtures and areas of each bathroom so that they could be fast-tracked for repair by BPS staff

  • organized a schoolwide paper crane project (in memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and hung cranes at the entrance to the building

  • hosted students from Hiroshima and Nagasaki high schools and participated in a conference, “Technologies of Peace,” with those students at Harvard University

  • participated in the Topol fellows conference on peace and non-violence at the University of Massachusetts Club

  • with BLS STAND, organized Human Rights Day, with a focus on themes related to the advancement of peace and non-violence.

  • moderated a schoolwide afterschool discussion (with students and faculty) on how to preserve our democracy in the aftermath of the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States

 

The second cohort of 15 Topol fellows (2017-2018) undertook several additional projects:

  • inaugurated the year with a project for all 2450 BLS students to create and exchange friendship bracelets during the first day of school. 

  • painted a series of murals, inspired by Dr. Seuss’ book The Sneeches, installed in the school’s Dining Hall (in the senior section) to encourage respect for and acceptance of differences

  • organized, once again with BLS STAND, Human Rights Day, selling a record 300+ t-shirts to students who wished to actively participate in the event

  • organized the first annual MOTH Day, in which BLS students shared personal stories and experiences to encourage empathy and understanding within the school community.

  • presented highlights from the MOTH event for alumnae/i at the May reunions.

At the start of the third cohort year of 17 fellows (2018-2019), thanks to an invitation to visit the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, 10 of the most recent group of Topol fellows traveled for three days to Montgomery to visit sites related to the history of the Confederacy, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the efforts at equal justice led by Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.   Building on this experience, this cohort initiated several new initiatives:

  • beginning the year with a lollipop inserted into every locker for every student in the building, accompanied by an inspirational, motivational message.

  • began a student-created weekly song lyric, accompanied by a Topol fellow Spotify playlist, that was meant to foreground themes of peace, understanding, and non-violence.   This board was installed in the “new” main lobby of the school for the entire community to see on a daily basis.

  • organized, once again with BLS STAND, Human Rights Day, with Topol fellows partnering with teachers to lead each period’s “teach in”

  • organized the second annual MOTH Day, in which BLS students and faculty shared personal stories and experiences to encourage empathy and understanding within the school community.

  • organized a new initiative—the richness of Boston’s communities (working title)—to be held in the Black Box during W block in late April, with student representatives from different neighborhoods in Boston. 

  • presented highlights from the MOTH event for alumnae/i at the May reunions.

The fourth cohort of 17 Topol fellows (2019-2020) were especially active and initiated numerous new programs as part of their year, despite the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of in-person school in March 2020.   Their initiatives included:

  • beginning the year with a packed screening of the 4+ hour series on Chernobyl, which despite Science department opposition, led to considerable student interest in both the dangers of nuclear energy and warfare AND the need for government transparency throughout the world.

  • organized, once again with BLS STAND, Human Rights Day, with Topol fellows partnering with teachers to lead each period’s “teach in.”  The year’s HR Day was attended by nearly 700 students at each session.

  • created an interactive set of kiosks, accompanied by live programming with speakers and activists, documenting what was happening to the Uyghur Muslim population of China

  • organized the third annual MOTH Day, in which BLS students and faculty shared personal stories and experiences to encourage empathy and understanding within the school community.

  • participated as protestors at the Boston Climate Strike

  • led a teach-in session on economic inequality for the school’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. teach in

  • created an exhibition on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and Coretta Scott King’s connections to Boston which was on view in the lobby of the school

  • organized a widely-attended 5 hour screening of the HBO series Undocumented, which inspired a community discussion of the importance of immigrants in US society plus the need to help undocumented individuals.

  • sought to create a massive all school picture collage with head shots of every single student in the school forming the letters “BLS” (as of the pandemic, unfinished)

  • exhibited a massive chronology over floors 1 and 2 of the school documenting the examples of federal government xenophobic action since 2012 that resulted in widespread discussion throughout the school community.

  • during the pandemic, curated an array of documentaries for students at home—and interested in activism—to watch.

The fifth cohort of Topol Fellows (2020-2021) persevered, despite being unable to do any in person programming due to COVID, and developed an innovative array of programs within virtual platforms to serve as a prominent presence in programming at the school.  They juggled the challenges of the pandemic with a desire to preserve some of the best work the Topols had done in the past. 

  • led voter registration efforts to ensure that eligible students would be able to vote in the 2020 election and beyond

  • offered a remarkable virtual version of Human Rights Day with a remarkable array of pairings of faculty and students leading each session.

  • spearheaded a response to anti-Asian hate nationwide that resulted in a well-attended Friday Flex session.

  • orchestrated and led screening of the acclaimed 2019 series When They See Us, the four and one-half hour four-part series on the so-called Central Park Five.  

  • recreated the 1929 debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard, presented at the close of Black History Month in winter 2021.

  • organized (in fall 2021) a town meeting for the entire school on the new BLS admissions policy. 

  • organized a terrific and highly successful MOTH Story daylong event.

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Topol Fellows preparing to paint 14 restrooms at Boston Latin, summer 2016.

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Topol Fellows, wearing the Human Rights Day t-shirts that they helped to create, at the conclusion of Human Rights Day 2016.

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Topol Fellows 19-20 and classmates protesting as part of the Boston Climate Strike, fall 2019.   

photos: Jess Schnitzer

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Boston Latin students' posted wishes for International Day of Peace 2016.

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Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence 2016-2017

(from left to right): Ethan Loranger '17, Angel Maldonado '17,  Livia Kelly '17, Maya Greally '17, Kayla Riker '17,

Sidney Topol '41,  Hazel Law '17, Jenna Lang '17, Cosette Newcomb '17, Jada Taylor '17, Aimee Stylunas '18, Stella Harris '17,  Max Tamer-Mahony '17

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Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence 2017-2018

(back, from left to right): Aaron Achildiyev '18, Aria Scopa '18, Portia Caruso '18, Stephen Hart '18, Cindy Pham '18, Seamus Cusack '18, Judi Freeman, Seevak Chair in History

(center, from left to right): Isabelle Doerre-Torres '18, Janna Ramadan '18, Megan Krieger '18, Finley Severin '18

(front, from left to right): Molly O'Halloran '18, Nora Davis '18, Sofia Meadows Muriel '18, Mia McCarthy '18 

missing from photo: Karen Barden '18

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Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence 2018-2019

(from left to right):  Iman Hussein '19, Ben Hofmann '19, Kay St. Fleur '19, Sydney Lang '19, Katelyn Wilson '19, Marilyn Rodriguez '41, Sidney Topol '41, David Flagg '19, Jasmine Nguyen '19, Elena Vietri '19, Tracey Do '19, Laura Goodfield '19, Rafaela Ugarte-Nunez '19, Rachel Silverman '19, Ammal Jama '19, Dan Bryan '19, Jada Evora '19, Emily Ringrose '19

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Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence 2019-2020

(from left to right):  Mateo Daffin '20, Gwen Liu '20, Chris Impellizeri '20, Dina Kobeissi '20, Natalie Habib '20, Mehdi Kayi '20, Willa Nesoff '20, Isabelle Nelson '20, Sam Cheever '20, Victoria Peterlin '20, Sitnour Elamin '20, Jess Schnitzer '20, Alisa Regassa '20, Morgan Frost '20, Norah Brady '20, JD Moore '20, Julia Rivera '20

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Topol Fellows in Peace and Nonviolence 2020-2021

(rear, from left to right): Paterson Tran '21, Owen Anastas '21, Urvi Gipstein '21, Sylvia Posever '21, Taylor Murray '21, Isabelle Goodrich '21, Olivia Ardito '21 [thanks to the magic of Photoshop), Alexander Young '21, Rick Li '21, Thomas Tran '21

(center, from left to right): Ruth Shiferaw '21, Sophia Bartlett '21, Michelle Garzon-Osorio '21, Zoe Nagasawa '21, Mandy Sun '21, Ashley Tran '21 

(front, from left to right): Sarah Xu '21,  Quinn Requoma Cantor '21