SCHENECTADY — Over the course of her high school career, Schenectady High School senior Login Abudalla has grown into the role of a staunch advocate for fellow students. One of the main goals of her advocacy is to have students’ voices heard and their perspectives taken into consideration by decision makers.
“Our school is very diverse with the people who come here,” Abudalla said. “The background that each kid has is all different.” With that in mind, she sets out to learn what her peers, as well as teachers, think about issues affecting the high school environment. “It’s getting people to just open up to me so that I could interpret that,” she said. “Every person’s opinion and perspective is different. I wanted to make sure that people were heard throughout it.”
Abudalla noted that not all students were willing to discuss their views about controversial issues in public. She sought to bring their opinions to light. “I would hear them out and talk to the students who don’t feel comfortable voicing their opinions because they’re afraid,” she said.
In seeking to create positive change in her school, Abudalla has tried to express to the administration and board of education that students desire to have a voice in what goes on in their school, and she sees a need for improved communication. For example, the school instituted block scheduling on Oct. 18 of last year. “They didn’t tell us until the last minute,” Abudalla said. “I wanted to bring up many ideas on why this was a bad idea,” she said, noting diminished attention span she attributes to COVID and the difficulties this would pose to students who were attending school virtually. “We never really got a say in it.”
She describes the discussion that administrators did have with students as “a venting session.” “Nothing changed,” she said. “This was already in play. It was going to be voted in that next week. No voices were heard. Change was already coming.”
She believes that seeking students’ input on the decision could have helped create a positive outcome. “I just advocated for consistency and honesty through what they’re going to do for the school to make sure it works out in their favor,” Abudalla said.
It’s this attitude that has garnered the respect of adults in the school, even when she disagrees with them. “Login is a kind, generous and respectful student,” said school counselor Menchy Yarbrough. “She is an advocate for positive change within the school.”
Another controversial issue during Abudalla’s senior year was the board of education’s decision in March, by a 4-3 vote, to enter into a contract with the city’s police department that would place two community engagement officers at the high school with three others dividing their time between the middle and elementary schools.
As in the issue of block scheduling, students felt that no one was listening to them. On April 6 during their second block class, many students walked out and gathered outside of the Pat Riley Sports Center on campus to register their protest of the plan. Abudalla was among them, advocating for students’ voices to be heard.
“We have bigger issues going on,” Abudalla said. “At the end of the day, we have a lot more issues to deal with in this community. We shouldn’t be spending that kind of money when we have a lot of other things that should be dealt with.” The plan to put more police officers in the school would cot $600,000 over the next three years, split equally between the school district and the police department.
Abudalla believes that adding more police officers does not address the cause of the problems in the school. Instead, she proposed improving school life by instituting a peer mentoring program that would help students make better decisions. “I wanted this peer-to-peer mentoring because our district hasn’t done anything to cut the problem off at the root,” she said. “They just tend to cut off the branches.”
She brought the idea to an administrator, and it is currently in the planning stage. She pictures the program modeled after the “big/little” idea used in college sororities and fraternities. Older students would be connected with younger students as mentors. “It would help benefit student relationships, and it would help the older people who have gone through this help the sophomores, juniors and freshmen make better decisions,” Abudalla said.
While she notes that guidance counselors are helpful, she believes that peer-to-peer mentoring would have a greater impact, inspiring students to become more involved in the school. She pictures mentor students exposing younger students to programs, clubs and people in the school who can help them.
“We want to make sure that we advise people to … help the younger kids to make better decisions as they grow into their high school experience and to stay on track academically,” she said.
She hopes to help work on the program during her school breaks from Wells College in Aurora, where she will be enrolling in the fall. She plans to double major in international relations and human rights with minors in architecture and interior design. “My majors are my passion, and my minors are my hobbies that I love,” Abudalla said.
Her high school career has put her well on the track to supporting human rights. She advocates for trans-youth rights and women’s rights in addition to seeking improvements in the school community. What has caused Abudalla to stand out in her advocacy role is that even while in disagreement with school policies, she carries out her work in a respectful manner. “She cares about the well-being of her peers and the entire school community,” Yarbrough said.