GPAC Takes the Lead in Discussing the War in Ukraine: Mr. Westermann Urges Additional Conversations


Public domain, SVG ID: 189496

The desperate plight of the people of Ukraine has captured the hearts and minds of many.

Charlotte Castle, Co-Editor-in-Chief

In response to the war in Ukraine, Potomac held a lunchtime conversation on March 2 led by history teacher Ms. Bridget Gagne and her GPAC students. In an email, Director of Student Life Mr. Jake Westermann, who organized the conversation, noted that it consisted of “an overview of the conflict followed by a rich discussion.”  Mr. Westermann added that Potomac is “hoping to have additional conversations both inside history classrooms and for larger groups.”

Ms. Gagne said that “the overarching goal for the lunchtime conversation was to create a space where students could first establish a core set of understanding, because we understand students are trying to navigate sources in order to determine what is happening and with so much news at our fingertips it can be difficult to know where to go to find accurate information.”

GPAC classes, however, which focus on current events, have not carved out an extensive amount of time to talk about the war in Ukraine. Instead, they have focused on their specific curriculum, which includes writing research papers. “We will probably start talking about Ukraine a couple more times sporadically throughout the  spring, especially in GPAC 10 where students will start to choose their topics for next year,” said Ms. Gagne. “A few of them have already articulated that they might want to do a topic on Ukraine, either on the food crisis or other countries supporting Ukraine.”

Despite some GPAC 10 students expressing their interest in writing their research paper on Ukraine, certain Potomac students feel as if the crisis is not being adequately addressed. To combat this, freshman Polina Helinski, who is of Ukrainian descent, says that she is organizing a drive where student-contributed donations will benefit Ukraine. “I think the drive is going to be very helpful with everyone contributing, but I think Potomac should talk about [the war] more,” Polina said. “I wish people knew not just the facts about the war but a closer look into a family that’s actually going through it.”

Since the war, Polina’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, and three cousins have left Odesa, Ukraine and now live with her and her family in America. Her eldest cousin, Nikita, recently started going to a nearby public school.

Freshman Kai Jefferson, whose mom is from Russia, does not support Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. His grandparents still live in Russia and are scared of saying the wrong thing on phone calls and becoming in trouble with the Russian government. 

 “When my mom calls my grandparents just to check in, they’re always saying things that aren’t true because that’s what they see on TV,” Kai said. “When people think about the war they think everyone in Russia is supporting it. But there’s more people who don’t support it than do and it’s just the government controlling everybody.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, millions of Ukrainians have fled their country, which is being destroyed by Russian bombs, missles, and artillery.