Matthew Vernon Whalan | Berkshire Edge
From left to right: Claudia Maurino, Mae Rose Whaley, Lucy Doren and Fionna Shea of the Monument Mountain Regional High School student group Rise. Photo courtesy Rise
Great Barrington -- The shock of the presidential election to the future of this country was not lost on young people at Monument Mountain Regional High School in November 2016. During the campaign cycle, students had been gathering in classroom B-12 of English teacher Michael Rosenthal to discuss their feelings about the current political climate in the buildup to the election. The more the year went on, the more important these meetings became.
Lucy Hoffman founded the anti-racist, anti-sexist student activist group Rise along with another student and Rosenthal in the wake of the 2016 election. Hoffman had an independent study in creative writing with Rosenthal but increasingly used that time to pursue her interest in politics. The more intense the political atmosphere in the country became, the more passionate she was.
“[Rise] started as a place where we could just get together and talk about how we felt. Just to be able to talk to each other and have discussions about it was really great,” Hoffman explained.
She added that, while it was important to have a space to talk about how the students felt, she “thought that we needed to have an outlet to express these feelings more and actually do something.”
“A lot of us felt really let down,” Hoffman said about the time following the election, “because we’d grown up in the Berkshires where it’s kind of like you live in a bubble and the majority of the people you meet just reinforce the things you already know. That’s partly why the 2016 election was so jarring. It was a way of learning that so many people have these other ideas about the world and about life.”
Hoffman said that Rise was inspired by the wave of activism that swept across the country in 2016. The group started to grow from a meeting group of a few like-minded students into a more community-oriented space. Rise developed a strong relationship with Railroad Street Youth Project and Multicultural BRIDGE and worked on various forms of outreach, such as an open mic-style event in which students spoke out, read poetry and played music. The event raised approximately $600, surpassing its original goal of $200, all of which was donated to Planned Parenthood.