Meaningful and Honest Conversations: Fireside Chats

At St. Mary’s, Upper School students have the opportunity to organize a “fireside chat” to have discourse on subject matters of their choosing. Students are encouraged to have meaningful and honest conversations with their peers on current issues that affect our community and beyond. Recent topics have included the rise of antisemitism, women’s rights in Iran, and finding your purpose.

“At St. Mary’s, an important part of the light and life of our community is civil discourse, said Assistant Chaplain Rainey Ray Segars ‘05.” We want our girls to have not only a good academic education, but also a strong ability to express their opinions and to receive the differing opinions of others with humility, curiosity, and respect.”

Sydney Shanker ’23, a member of the Jewish Student Association, recently helped lead a fireside chat about antisemitism and how to stand up against hatred, racism, and bigotry. She shared that fireside chats are essential because they “provide a safe place for students to talk about predominant issues that affect not only the St. Mary's community but also people worldwide.”

The Muslim Student Association also recently led a discussion about the oppression of Iranian women and a Muslim women’s right to choose to wear the religious head covering a hijab. Students learned from Muslim classmates who shared personal experiences and helped educate fireside chat participants on issues surrounding Muslim women. 

Yusra Siddiq helped lead this fireside chat. She shared, “we wanted to shed light on the conflict in Iran and how one country's devastating issue does not represent Islam all around the world.” 

St. Mary’s strives to foster a sense of belonging by ensuring that girls are seen, safe, supported, valued, and celebrated. We have created a space where students are valued and welcomed as members of our school community. Fireside chats allow students of all backgrounds to feel seen by peers in a safe and supportive environment. 

“Everyone is granted the opportunity in the safe intimate space of Weir Study to express their opinions about difficult subjects and learn about different perspectives,” shared Facing History student leader Hayden Hedges ’23. We will continue to have more meaningful conversations as the year progresses.



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