Academics / Community

Dana Hall Senior Forum Kicks into Action

Before winter break, the senior forum classes participated in two self defense classes. These classes were held in the gym and led by two instructors from a group called IMPACT Boston. During the two classes the seniors learned the eye strike, the groin kick, and verbal avoidances. The verbal piece to the class was all about avoiding attack and de-escalating the situation at hand.

IMPACT Boston is an organization that offers self defense classes to a variety of groups in Boston. On their website they said, “At IMPACT we believe everyone has the right to be safe and the ability to protect themselves. Our self-defense programs give people the skills to stay calm and focused in unsafe situations.” 

Students from the senior class had said that they liked the class but wished that there had been more and that it would have benefitted them greatly. IMPACT Boston has come to Dana Hall for around 10-12 years teaching two forum classes a year. It all started with a previous campus safety officer teaching the class that has now led to an annual lesson.

They offer online classes for healthy relationships, negotiating in relationships, de-escalating training, and assertive and boundary setting. 

On the IMPACT Boston website they include a page specifically for graduates who used their knowledge of self defense in a time in their life and how it saved them from that danger. 

These two classes are meant to put students in a stressful situation so they learn how to deal with that pressure if they ever encounter that problem. V Ramaswamy ‘23 said that during one of the classes the instructors asked for volunteers and no one would raise their hand so she volunteered to demonstrate. The instructors approached her threateningly so she would fight back. She said, “I got really sucked into the scenario. It was a little bit scary because they’re trained to make you feel threatened.” She also said that it was scary because it felt real. 

Talia Lovey-Reyes ‘23 adds, “It is meant to be uncomfortable, I get that, I am glad that they did that but also they didn’t address the fact that some people have had experience with this” (growing up in an abusive household, in a dangerous city, etc.) Each student would yell each time they would strike and that put Talia into an uncomfortable situation because they have sensory issues when it comes to loud noises. 

In previous years, this class had taken place in the fencing studio but this year it was in the gym due to the classroom building shifting the location of some things throughout the day. The exposure of being in the gym has made some classmates feel uncomfortable. Talia Lovey-Reyes ‘23 said that she felt exposed in the gym and it wasn’t a very welcoming environment. 

Both students and faculty, Janna Berger, wished that they could do more with self defense. V Ramaswamy ’23 said that she would have preferred more classes to not only go more in depth with the topics but to also get more practice so she wouldn’t feel scared in that situation because she would have had the muscle memory deep within her already. 

The trainer, Ms. Janna Berger said, on behalf of the 12th grade deans, “We want everyone to have the right to be safe and we want them to have at least a few skills before they leave to be able to protect themselves.” She said that moving to college can be a difficult time so it is good that the Dana Hall seniors learn about this topic. V Ramaswamy also said that she found it helpful because she is no longer going to be in the “Dana bubble” and that going to a co-ed college will be scary. Having someone professional from IMPACT Boston to teach the class was reassuring because she felt as if that gave her a bit more confidence in her self defense knowledge. 

There were two instructors from IMPACT Boston that came. The first and main instructor was female. The second male instructor, named Ben, was the “punching bag.” Ben would dress up in a helmet and a groin protector and ask that the students would hit him as hard as they could. 

Talia Lovey-Reyes said that during verbal situations, the female instructor would always say sorry to her ‘attacker’ because that was the best way to calm him down and back away. Talia said that it was ironic because they understood that the instructor doesn’t want to make her attacker angry, but it also pushed forward the social standard that women are supposed to be polite and apologize. They said it was ironic because these lessons are supposed to raise strong, independent women. 

Ms. Janna Berger also said that the senior forum classes cover substance abuse, healthy relationships, becoming a contributor to a good community, sexual education, mental health, transition to college, and finance lessons. 

IMPACT Boson offers in-person classes that include a women’s core program, a women of color core program, an all gender LGBTQ core program, a men’s core program, and a bystander intervention class. Along with these they offer classes for trauma survivors, children and teen classes, and advanced classes for defense against firearms and weapons.

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