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Westwood High social media campaign keeps students together

A student council Instagram baking challenge drew this submission from Westwood freshman Jade Dunn.
A student council Instagram baking challenge drew this submission from Westwood freshman Jade Dunn.Jade Dunn

Students found themselves alone, separated from their classmates, after schools shut their campuses down in an effort to flatten the curve amid the coronavirus pandemic. While some students may appreciate the lack of early-rising and screeching bells, many long for their community.

Zoom classes support remote learning. Westwood High School’s student council fosters social engagement.

Sally Patton, a social studies teacher and student council adviser, guides the council’s programming toward building community at Westwood High. She said her primary concern after campus closures was maintaining that culture.

“I was trying to think: How can we develop something to keep everyone connected?” Patton said. “We have to reach students where they are — which is on their phones and social media.”

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Diana Bezdedeanu, a Westwood senior and council leader, said she felt dismayed by the suspension of her last months of high school. She, Patton, and the team decided to turn their Instagram into a coronavirus survival account. So far, it has 451 followers.

“We had a Westwood Cutest Pet contest, and [students] submitted pictures of their pets. Who doesn’t love to brag about their pets?” Bezdedeanu said. “I would say we had anywhere from 60 to 75 photos submitted.”

The student council Instagram posts a photo request or activity challenge every day. Last week the account started off with a virtual yoga session.

“We also did a walking challenge to get people outside and log miles. That’s become a weekly thing,” Bezdedeanu said. “We got to 100 miles this week.” Since her interview, users have logged about 400 miles.

Junior Caroline Woodard said the council is committed to doing its best to fill the gap of senior spring — the end-of-semester events for graduating students.

“It’s nice to know that I’m helping bring everyone together and help people feel less isolated, less depressed about their spring in high school,” Woodard said. “It’s been a good campaign.”

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Depending on the post, their page receives anywhere from 20 to 300 submissions. Woodward said she almost constantly accepts photos and responses.

After uploading a request or challenge, Woodard and Patton field all submissions. Woodward then curates the collection into an Instagram story — pinning it on the page as a highlight, or a permanent “album” users can tap through.

Bezdedeanu said she feels grateful to have the council’s Instagram engagement to focus on. “For me especially this has been really hard,” she said. “It’s the last couple months of my senior year and obviously it’s not what I expected it to be.”

Woodard and Bezdedeanu share a favorite campaign so far: the cutest pet contest. Patton loved receiving “utter disaster” submissions for a couple of their cooking challenges.

Stefania Lugli can be reached at stefania.lugli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @steflugli.