Winston’s Commons Crusade

Ever wonder why Jared Winston, Director of Student Life, started yelling on his loudspeaker and telling you to throw away your trash even when you only sat down to eat your chicken and rice five minutes ago? Well, it is actually an initiative to improve school culture and to encourage students to throw away their trash.

When I spoke to Winston, he told me that he began to do this because we needed a time and place for the school to be together and have short and quick announcements as a community. In high school, Winston’s school had daily morning announcements where they would shout out community members and recognize recent accomplishments. He called it, “a special moment at the beginning of the day that could center the community.” Once I considered it, I thought it was a little weird that Poly has never done it because it seems like such a Poly thing to do. We have Chapel, but usually that time is prioritized for other things. Since I’ve been at Poly, it’s become less of a time for community. announcements and more for special guests and insight into some of Poly’s specific programs.
As Winston explained, our PA system is not properly wired to hold morning announcements because we would wake up our neighbors around campus. So instead of installing an internal announcement system at Poly, which would be a much longer and delayed process, he decided to make lunch a little more interesting.

Additionally, the seven-day schedule makes it difficult for the whole community to meet at once. Winston pointed out that due to the scheduling, “we often can go up to two weeks without communing together in the same space and feeling like the individual is part of a larger whole.” This really spoke to me. I think people can come to feel extremely lonely throughout the day, as they are going from class to class, not able to participate in communities, because the only extra time they have is used for speaking with teachers or in extracurricular activities. Commons is the one place where you can sit back and enjoy the people around you and understand that you are not alone at all.

The other thing pressing on Winston’s mind was students not cleaning up after themselves in the Commons. It’s important that we take care of the physical spaces in our community and acknowledge the responsibility we have to do so. As a community, we desperately needed to “update the community on important cultural moments, and also enforce cultural norms and expectations,” said Winston. Understanding that “culture takes time to change,” Winston said he came up with the bright idea to set up a speaker in Commons and accomplish both of these goals by surprising us with very loud, energetic, and unexpected announcements. Winston told me that he was pretty angry with the fact that students were not taking care of Commons, and he used that frustration and turned it into something positive and productive. “I get to connect with students, I get to have informal conversation, and I get to build rapport and trust.” These interactions in Commons build trust in our community and promote
cultural growth.

We develop community in so many ways at Poly Prep. We have athletics, arts, academics, clubs, affinity and alliance groups, upstander workshops, and now a microphone in Commons. Winston is confident that the relationships that he is able to create in a space like Commons will allow us to “try new things in good faith to improve community.” I agree. The goal in the future is to involve students in these announcements and to create a robust program that’s run by students with an eye towards community and culture development. This initiative to startle us in Commons with positive messages and Winston’s “you better be cleaning up that garbage in 20 minutes” face is going to jumpstart an amazing program at Poly and will inspire the community to grow stronger.