By ELIANA FEINSTEIN | Contributing Writer
While Valentine’s Day traditionally focuses on romance, the loving bond of friendship often proves to be just as strong and pure.
The holiday encompasses what Palisades Charter High School’s By Your Side club achieves throughout the year—love, acceptance and bringing people together. By Your Side connects Pali students from the general and special education departments through club meetings and events.
The students are otherwise separated by different classes and facilities at the school, but By Your Side shows this is not a barrier to building meaningful relationships.
Club President Ariel Dardashti said that while “there are a million things” he has gained from By Your Side, “first and foremost, I think friends.”
Dardashti established the Pali High chapter of By Your Side in early 2020 after being approached by Britney Shirian, who was then the co-president of By Your Side’s original chapter at Beverly Hills High School.
Dardashti explained that Shirian acted as a mentor for him throughout the process of forming and leading the club at Pali, especially during a pandemic. By Your Side had to rapidly adapt to a virtual environment, which presented a new set of challenges for its members.
Dardashti questioned how to “give on-campus resources to students even though we’re not on campus,” as a main goal of the club is to make resources more accessible for students in the special education department.
“It was difficult, but we’re learning,” he said.
The group has adapted to its virtual environment with a Zoom costume party for Halloween, arts and crafts for Thanksgiving, and other holiday-themed events. The club’s virtual Valentine’s Day Gathering, set for Friday, February 12, at 2 p.m., will include an art competition, dancing and lots of laughter, according to Dardashti.
“We would normally do [this] at an at-school setting,” he joked. “[Now] we’re going to be doing it alone and at home and with our moms watching.”
Although COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have left many people feeling alone and isolated right now, By Your Side is emphasizing friendship, togetherness and perseverance. Through weekly club meetings, now on Zoom, members continue to grow closer in their friendships, bonding over topics like family and ice cream.
Dardashti said he has developed patience and understanding throughout his time in By Your Side, skills he thinks everyone can gain by participating in the club’s activities. According to him, many of the students have begun to open up more as the weeks progress, making more jokes and sharing more information with their fellow By Your Side members.
Dardashti said that it’s important to have an inclusive space where students in the special and general education departments can express themselves.
“Life is very fast-paced, so for us to all debrief and to all express ourselves and talk in a no-judgement environment is really healthy,” he shared.
Dardashti stressed the importance of taking the time to help and listen to each other, saying “the same way that in your time of need you would want to be treated, treat other people.”
Looking ahead to Valentine’s Day and beyond, Dardashti said: “We have each other, which is what the spirit of the holiday is all about.”
Palisades Charter High School senior and co-Editor-in-Chief of the Tideline journalism class Eliana Feinstein is coordinating the submission of a series of pieces the Palisadian-Post is publishing from the school’s periodical. A version of this piece originally appeared in Tideline.
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