How Kindness Brought Us Together

KatieAnn Nguyen 

In this last year, the community here at West County High School has seen what kindness can do to heal, to reconcile, and to reunite. Kindness has healed this divided school, brought together two entirely separate communities, and moved us forward united. 

When in March 2021, the West Sonoma County Union High School District Board of Trustees voted to consolidate both the El Molino and Analy high schools onto the Analy campus due to a lack of funding to keep both schools open, outrage was sparked from both communities. Despite the backlash from heartbroken community members and students, the 2021 school year began with the new name of West County High School, with a deep division between both prior El Molino and Analy students. 

This school year at West County High School began with tension in the air, began with the argument of us vs. them, began with students uncomfortable and upset with one another. For the previous El Molino students, they had lost their school, their entire community built at their campus, and most of all the heart that embodied El Molino. And for the previous Analy students, they had lost their school name, their school culture, and their mascot. There was grief and there was loss and there was heartbreak for both sides. This new school began on the foundations of two rival schools coming together as one, began with devastated students sitting in classrooms with one another, and began with a divide that no one knew how to fix. 

As the school year progressed, the two divided student bodies began to slowly form a community of our own. Instead of carrying the grief in our hearts, we overcame that devastation and replaced it with hope, hope for a new beginning going forward. 

Surrounded by strangers we had never met before, we chose to be kind. We reached out to one another, worked together in class, said hello in the hallways, cheered beside one another at the sports games. And while the awkwardness and the tension still hung over everyone, it was more subtle than before. Slowly, these little acts of kindness blossomed into a community worth cherishing at West County High School. It began with introducing ourselves in classes or helping each other find our next class, soon growing into hellos while passing in the hallways or helping one another with homework, until before we even realized it, we grew as one student body. The little conversations we shared with one another, the laughter and smiles that introduced us to one another sprouted into friendship and understanding. No longer was the divide between previous Analy or El Molino students. Now, it was West County students that embodied this new school. Despite the hurt and loss we felt the year prior, we dared to take a step forward towards a new beginning, a future that truly embraced all of us. 

Slowly, the campus began to feel more welcoming. At sports games, we cheered alongside one another until our throats croaked. We colored the student section with red and blue. We stood in the stands beside one another and chanted for our team. The beginning of this year started with students who could barely talk to one another, and soon transformed into those very same students screaming together from the stands. The kindness we showed one another, it moved us forward as one united student body. 

It wasn’t just the students though, the staff came together and worked to create an environment welcoming of both student communities. They worked hard before school even began, planning a rally in order to welcome students on their first day back, taking the time to individually care for every one of their students, pushing aside their own personal feelings and prioritizing the students. Our staff, those who had been at either campuses for years, those who had formed personal connections and made memories at either campus, took a step forward themselves. They chose to forget the petty rivalry between Analy and El Molino and move towards a direction that would unite the students. They chose to show kindness and warmth and understanding to all their students. Every Friday, they choose to wear their West County tie-dye spirit shirts. Everyday as students walk into their class, they smile and welcome everyone. Kindness did not just extend to the students, but also the staff, who poured their hearts and energy into creating a school that everyone could cherish. 

When we chose to reach out to one another, we chose to take a chance in the face of discomfort and unease. When we chose to stand alongside one another, we chose to shape a new beginning. When we chose to accept one another’s grief, we chose to forgive. When we chose to embrace and welcome one another, we chose to form a community. When we chose to be kind to one another, we chose unity. 

The community here at West County is proof of how kindness can bring us together. If you were to walk onto our campus, you’d see students alongside one another, as if they had been at this school their whole lives. If you were to walk onto our campus, you’d see staff members eating lunch with one another as if they’d been working with each other for years. If you were to walk onto our campus, you’d see a community that came out stronger than ever after heartbroken beginnings and division. 

In the wake of hurt and division, the students of West County High School took a chance and chose to forgive rather than stay hurt by the past. We chose to take a step forward instead of continuing to grieve. We chose to create something new for both communities. Now, through the kindness we’ve shared, we stand together united, with a new home, a new community in West County High School.