The Importance of Community

School can be a grueling task–waking up at six or seven o’ clock in the morning to enter  a place where tests and papers await a groggy and unprepared mind, and where the stresses of these looming deadlines and due dates only grow greater as finals creep closer, is not the best way to wake up.


However, students manage to find comfort away from all the crushing responsibility in the form of community.


“I look forward to having daily hangouts with friends before and after school,”

says Salem Dawit, freshman.  


This is not simply a distraction from work. This sense of friendship and bonding is truly deep. For instance, Salem had a comforting Friendsgiving with those she cares about, with pumpkin pie, brownies, and many other treats.


“My extended family doesn’t come into town for Thanksgiving, so it was nice to have something with friends,” Salem explains.


This is not just a warm feeling inside, though. It is a deep, human need being met.


“Strong social connection… leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity, strengthens your immune system, helps you recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen your life,” according to Dr. Emma Seppala, science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. 


“People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative,” she elaborates.


Of course this is a two sided coin. Not having community is not the neutral state, it affects an individual just as much.


“People low in social connection are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, and even suicidal behaviors,” says Dr. Seppala.


It seems that the most common places where this sense of community and companionship are built are school and work, two places meant for a different core purpose, and both places have very specific cliques or hierarchies that form that can inhibit connection. However, there are other, more easily accessible spaces where communities can be built.


Communities form around common interests. Anywhere from a church to a skatepark to a Muay Thai martial arts school can be a place to foster community. If there is an interest, there is a group of people who gather together to celebrate that interest.


Many who go to Westminster are churchgoers, or participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, theater, or clubs. School is a massive conduit for connection. 


“I love art club because it is an easy way to make friends,” says Florence Sarra, junior and art club member. 


Eventually, everyone will graduate and move on with their lives. But this does not mean that the community built around whatever club or church must dissipate or weaken. 


In the modern era, communities have migrated from the physical world to the digital one, with more online gathering spaces than one could imagine. Spaces to celebrate billionaire movie stars and pop singers, spaces to revel in obscure experiences or gimmicks, and spaces to keep in contact with anyone you meet in real life as well. You can communicate with your fellow church attendees, or robotics club members, or skate park friends, as easily as pressing a button.


It is important, though, to have internet areas be an extension of communities, not a replacement. Though DMs and comment threads can provide fun little jokes or truly deep insights, looking at another human in real time and sharing some sort of interest simply cannot be replaced.


“Real communities are better than virtual communities in communicating affect, identifying participants and holding them accountable, and in providing group feedback,” states Amitai and Oren Etzioni for 


Community is an important part of human life and fostering it in public spaces is important.