Special to the Reporter
West Mercer Elementary School held its third Belonging Assembly of the year on Dec. 6 and welcomed a surprise guest performance from members of the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) drill team.
The school holds a Belonging Assembly each month this year as part of its School Improvement Plan social-emotional learning goal around belonging.
The drill team visit provided an opportunity to highlight belonging within a high school team, make connections between students from West Mercer and the high school, and further cultivate a sense of community and belonging in the Mercer Island School District.
The assembly started with a video presentation from the West Mercer news team where they asked students why they are unique to highlight belonging and acceptance at the school.
Ninth-grade drill team member Ina Song, who moved to Mercer Island three years ago from South Korea, then spoke to students about what belonging meant to her as she navigated a new country and culture.
“Since I was bad at English and was not used to the culture, I had trouble talking to people, and it made it hard for me to be accepted or belong to any group,” Song said, in part. “I started with sending messages to my teachers, because it felt more comfortable than talking to someone face to face. I pushed myself to speak if I had the chance, to participate in discussions and prepare for presentations. And in that journey, I was able to find myself piece by piece.”
She added that the first step in belonging is loving and believing in yourself.
After Song’s presentation, students and staff were treated to the drill team’s Super Mario Brothers routine performance. The team danced to Super Mario Brothers-themed music and wore costumes similar to the popular video game and movie characters’ dress.
After the assembly, two members of the drill team spoke to school district communications coordinator Ian Henry about what participating in the belonging assembly at West Mercer meant to them.
“Attending the Belonging Assembly holds great significance for us because, as a team, one of our biggest goals is to make everyone feel included,” said senior captain Jada Luu. “Dance is able to convey a sense of belonging and bringing people together. All of our dancers come from different backgrounds yet we come together and create a community that has a loving and caring environment.”
Each West Mercer Belonging Assembly focuses on a component of belonging and is led by two buddy classes and the school’s Leadership Ambassadors student club. In November, the MIHS marching band visited the school for the Belonging Assembly.
“Attending this Belonging Assembly reflects the importance of coming together as a school community and learning how to feel like you and your peers are a part of something bigger,” said junior drill team member Isabella Sullivan. “From this assembly, I would like to learn how I can be a better leader in making sure those around me feel included and cared about.”
Principal Megan Isakson closed the assembly by telling the students that the drill team’s presence spotlighted connections across the whole community.
The opportunity for this cross-school connection with the drill team came out of the work of the new “We Are Islanders” group, which primarily consists of West Mercer families and staff at present, with the ultimate goal of connecting across all Mercer Island schools.