The Mercer Island community was recently shaken by the photo of two Mercer Island High School (MIHS) students posing while making Nazi salutes.
In the wake of the incident, the students of MIHS’s radio station, KMIH 88.9 The Bridge, wanted to do something to bring positivity to the community.
On March 22, KMIH 88.9 The Bridge hosted a “Day of Unity.” From 6 a.m. to midnight, the staff of 80 students led by broadcast teacher and the radio station’s general manager, Joe Bryant, played positive music and aired student, staff and community interviews of what it means to be “an Islander.”
“We saw that a lot of the media coverage of what happened only focused on the negative side of things,” KMIH junior Meghana Kakubal said. “We wanted to find a way to show who we really are, and that we are one.”
Bryant was the one who came up with the idea for the “Day of Unity” broadcast.
“We needed something to lift our spirits,” he said. “Nothing really works better than positive music.”
Bryant said radio has a way of serving and unifying a community that not many other media outlets can.
“When a community has a need, radio can fill it,” he said. “Radio can act quickly and get content out there almost instantly.”
For the “Day of Unity,” MIHS broadcast students didn’t want it to just be a broadcast class thing. They wanted it to be school-wide and even Island-wide.
In preparing for the event, the broadcast students reached out to students and staff to speak for live interviews and record short segments on what they love about Mercer Island. In addition, the broadcast students asked for the student body to wear blue for the “Day of Unity,” as blue is often a color that is used to support abolishing anti-Semitic actions.
“We wanted this to go big, but I think it exceeded our expectations,” junior broadcast student Lila Shroff said.
Students district-wide wore blue in honor of “Day of Unity.”
“It’s been so inspiring to see the community respond and seeing that something we’re doing has had such an effect on people,” Shroff said.
“It’s a real statement of what our community is made of and we should be proud,” Kakubal said.
The 16-hour broadcast played positive music including “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, to name a few.
The radio station took calls and requests from listeners throughout the day.
“We had a class from the middle school call in and request a Bob Marley song. When students are requesting Bob Marley, you know the world can’t be that bad,” Bryant laughed.
Aside from positive music, the broadcast included live interviews with Mercer Island School District (MISD) Superintendent Donna Colosky, students, staff, Rabbi Daniel Weiner and Hilary Bernstein from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Bernstein is the education director for the ADL. She said she was grateful to be asked to be interviewed for the “Day of Unity” broadcast.
“It’s great to be here and support the students’ effort to promote an atmosphere of respect and unity and speak about our initiative, No Place for Hate,” she said.
No Place for Hate is a self-directed program helping stakeholders take the lead on improving and maintaining school climate so all students can thrive. The nation-wide initiative designates schools that complete the program components.
MIHS became a No Place For Hate designated school before the anti-semitic events occurred in February.
Bernstein said nothing is more gratifying and inspiring than to be talking and sharing with students who see promoting unity as a priority.
She said that a school designated by the ADL’s No Place For Hate “doesn’t automatically mean that they’re perfect.”
“These mistakes happen — and that’s what they are — mistakes,” she said. “When things like this happen, it means the school is going to address it… Everybody has a role to play in moving forward, whether you were a part of it or not. We have to find a way to come together and move forward, and it’s been great to see how these students and staff are doing it.”
In closing, Bryant said the “Day of Unity” exceeded his expectations.
“I’m so proud of these kids, and I’m thrilled I get to mentor them,” he said. “Everyday when I’m in my car and I’m listening to the show — sometimes it makes me cry — this is what I was made to do, and this is why we do this.”