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Students Lead The Way In Shifting Discipline At Holyoke High School

Pa'lante director Luke Woodward speaks with peer leader David Serrano, a sophomore, in the student support room. Photo by Ben James for NEPR

Pa’lante director Luke Woodward speaks with peer leader David Serrano, a sophomore, in the student support room. Photo by Ben James for NEPR

Walk down the hallway at Holyoke High School and step into room 319, the student support room, and you’ll see a dozen chairs arranged in a broad circle. There are plants in the windows.

Student paintings cover the walls. Students meet one-on-one with counselors, and others work on projects, speaking in Spanish and English. The room is dynamic, messy and vital.

Three years ago, it didn’t look like this at all.

“Yeah, this was in-school suspension,” said Jo Kent Katz, the student support coordinator. “This room was like probably ten rows of ten desks. You know, come in and put your head down. That’s it. It felt pretty bad in here.”

Stephanie Duque, a senior at the high school, said that with the old setup, the room looked like a jail cell.

“There would be students on their phone, with their heads down, not doing work. Nobody was talking to them to figure out what was going on,” Duque said.

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