Special to the Independent
Showing total command and genuine engagement in classroom, small-group, and one-on-one settings, U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley enthralled the students and staff she encountered during a three-hour visit to Everett High School (EHS) on Thursday, April 14.
Pressley visited EHS during its special Charity for Children with Hair Loss event, which was conceived by student and cancer survivor Sarai Velez. Dozens of students, teachers, and staff donated their hair for children with cancer and alopecia (an auto-immune disease that attacks hair follicles). Pressley is one of the nearly seven million Americans who live with alopecia, and she has used her position to positively raise awareness and compassion about the physical and emotional toll the disease exacts.
“At a time of national hardship and uncertainty, I continue to be inspired by the compassion and aspiration of our students—and my visit to Everett High School last week only affirmed that,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I had the opportunity to discuss public service with AP Government students, participate in Sarai’s event for children with traumatic hair loss, and with a group of Everett students with disabilities about disability advocacy. My heart is full and I remain optimistic about the future of our Commonwealth and our country. Thank you to Superintendent Tahiliani for hosting me and I look forward to my next visit.”
Said Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani: “The Congresswoman fully engaged with everyone she met. It is not an exaggeration to say that our students were in awe of her. And we cannot thank her enough for making this a genuinely impactful day for the entire EHS community.”
Pressley, who represents the 7th District of Massachusetts, was welcomed to Everett High by administrators and students, including seniors Shawn Shiek and Breetika Maharjan and sophomore Emerson Pineda Chacon. The first stop was Carolyn MacWilliam’s AP Government class, where Pressley spoke to students about her path to Capitol Hill and answered questions. Among the things she talked about are the work she has done to change the voting age from 18 to 16 and the historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
The day ended with an intimate discussion between Pressley and the students and advisors of the Youth Disability Empowerment Club. Themes included community, advocacy, transformation, and joy.
In between, Pressley spent considerable time inside the EHS Gymnasium, where Sarai’s charity event was in full swing. In addition to haircutting stations where people could donate their hair, the festivities included arts and crafts, a manicurist, a therapy dog, yoga, a photo booth, and food from vendors and desserts made by the EHS Culinary Arts Department. The Congresswoman interacted with dozens of students, teachers, and staff, and was gracious in taking photographs and selfies.
“It was a great day at EHS,” said Superintendent Tahiliani. “Thanks to Sarai for coming up with this thoughtful way of supporting students, and to the EHS and district leaders who helped plan and set up the activities. And I hope and trust that Congresswoman Pressley had as much fun being at Everett High as we had hosting her.”