Breaking Down the Walls


Breaking Down the Walls. Photo: HHEF.

It all started in 2013 at Broken Arrow High School for Jason “JJ” Jedamski. Now, he’s making a difference in more than one school district. He made a visit to Hatboro-Horsham in the middle of October, and it only took a few minutes for the impact his program has to show. 

Just four years into his tenure as the Director of Student Life and Activities at Broken Arrow, he turned a school that once had less than 3% of its student population attend homecoming into Varsity Brand’s most spirited high school in the country.

Throughout the week of Oct. 17, Jedamski visited through his organization, Ignite2Unite. He ran Breaking Down the Walls, one of his programs that encourages students to better understand people they don’t know. Students partook in training sessions to become better leaders and listeners in the school community.

Jedamski’s career in speaking started when he partnered with Phil Boyte at Learning for Living. Here, he produced digital content for schools and organized events similar to Breaking Down the Walls. Now, Jedamski and Breaking Down the Walls has traveled all over the country, and he is making an impact on students everywhere he goes.

“I thought about it a lot after it was over,” freshman Maddie Sachson said. Maddie also said that she learned a lot about people and she was reminded that people aren’t always as they seem.

During the event, students participated in activities and games with people they didn’t know or weren’t familiar with. Students were strongly encouraged to break away from their friends and to go meet new people. Many of the exercises Jedamski led were meant for students to learn the importance of listening to one another, and he showed how people have so many different life stories that many don’t even not know about.

As the day progressed, students were slowly guided into deeper, more personal activities that further explored all different experiences people have gone through. Towards the end of the event, students participated in an activity where they had to cross the line if a subject applied to them. Many of these subjects were about personal topics that forced students to go outside their comfort zones by sharing stories they might have previously kept to themselves.

Naturally, many students found this uncomfortable in the beginning. “I felt like I was showing a side of me that isn’t often shown to the outside world. It was something I wasn’t used to,” freshman Aaron Ciciarelli commented.

Students were eventually put into small groups to discuss the impact different experiences can have on people. Many shared ways to make the campus a more welcoming, empathetic place, while others planned to focus on saying hello to or helping one stranger every day.

“[I want you] be the best version of yourself and be better together,” Jedamski said was his goal of Ignite2Unite. 

“Being the best version of yourself is as simple as saying hello to other students in your class when you walk in [or] pick[ing] up a random piece of trash on the floor when you see it.  Being better together means that we are working together to reach higher heights instead of trying to drag others down.”

Towards the end of the day, students were presented the opportunity to thank someone for anything they wanted. Some commented on something simple, like being a nice friend, and others thanked someone for saving their life mentally, emotionally and physically.

“[We] gained more sympathy and empathy for each other because you don’t know what other people are going through… It was nice to know a bit more about people,” freshman Ben Zollers said. “It’s a useful program.”