Writing

wlhsNOW stories and captions for photo stories

I wrote the captions for photo stories I published on my school’s independent journalism programs website, wlhsNOW.com

My story on our school’s GSA writing a letter to our school administration and school district:

Dear…

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With the trans pride flag painted on his cheek, Caleb Richards stares into the lens.

In light of the federal government threatening to change the definition of gender,  there was a lot of concern on how this would affect Title IX* and our school district, and the freedom for students to express their gender identity. GSA club took action to help ensure the protection of students in our community, who do not assign with the gender they were assigned at birth, by writing a letter to our school’s admin and the school district. The letter to admin asked what they would do if such federal laws pass, and what’s it going to do to Title IX and what’s going to do to our student body and our local government. “We have a lot of gender non-conforming students in our student body and a lot of people that are not the assigned gender they were at birth, so we wanted to make sure those students were safe,” Susie Walters, 11 said. “We want to make sure that we have an inclusive environment for people where they are able to express themselves the way that they want to be expressed, and their gender is respected in our school walls. We got a few replies and they were a couple from the school board and they were very supportive and amazing, they were like ‘don’t worry, we are totally on your side, we respect GSA, we respect everyone’s gender identity.’”

My story covering a kid bringing a nerf gun to school:

No place in our schools

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Photo from the nationwide walkout which took place on April 20, 2018, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

*** real name is not used in this article to protect the privacy of the child.

Last week at my little sister’s elementary school a student brought a toy gun to class and pointed it at and shot bullet darts at classmates.

This was right after recess and only a number of students had returned to their classroom. A few students paid little attention to this; one student was terrified. He was emotionally distraught, crying on the floor.

“I went to see if they were okay. Nolan is the type of kid that very seldom cries or gets upset about things. He hardly ever shows he is upset. He bounces back really fast when he gets hurt, and hardly ever cries for anything, so it’s rare when he cries and gets upset about something. He thought that he was being shot at,” said a witness of the aftermath.

This student was afraid that what their classmate was shooting was not a toy. They were afraid that there was a gun in their classroom. They were afraid that they were going to die.

This is a fear that I did not have when I was in elementary school. I can still remember a time before this was our reality. A time when there wasn’t a total of 346 mass shootings a year, as there were last year in 2017 according to the Gun Violence Archive. And a time when there wasn’t an average of more than 1 school shooting a week, as there were in the 2017-18 school year according to CNN, as of May 25, 2018.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far in 2018 there have been nearly as many mass shootings as there have been days. Politicians in office are failing Americans by not taking action and passing common sense gun laws, and by denying that guns are the issue.

Politicians in office are failing students by having their only solutions revolving school shootings be defective ones. Solutions which only prevent as many students die, like lockdown drills, instead of having their solutions be ones that stop school shootings all together. There is no reason a student should have to fear when they go to school that they could be the victim of a shooting.

People forget how new lockdown drills still are to Oregon. I can still remember a time before lockdown drills. Elementary school students today do not.

It was not till the summer break before my second year of middle school that Oregon Legislature took action to protect students with a new law that required every public school annually to hold two safety threat drills that would train students in procedures – lockdown drills. This was the summer break after the Sandy Hook school shooting where 26 students and teachers lost their lives. Now, after the Parkland school shooting, where 17 people lost their lives, there is a push for more school lockdown drills.

To all students who started school in the 2013-14 school year and after, school lockdown drills have been as engraved a part of their childhood as school fire drills were a part of mine.

There are children like Nolan who now go to school each day with the fear that there could be a shooting at their school. They go to school with the fear that they might not get to go home. Students now go to school knowing that they are not safe there. This is what it is like going to elementary school in 2018. This should not be normal.

Guns have no place in our schools.

Fear has no place in our schools.

 

My story I wrote on National Coming Out Day:

Coming Out

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Today is the 30th Annual National Coming Out Day!

Quick history lesson – National Coming Out Day was born on the first anniversary of the march on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place on October 11, 1987. Over half a million people participated. This event also resulted in the founding of numerous LGBTQ+ organizations. The purpose of National Coming Out Day is to mark the anniversary of the march and to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

Today is a day to celebrate coming out, as it is a momentous thing for most LGBTQ+ people and it takes a tremendous amount of courage.

Coming out – and living being out – means so much for everyone in the community. Visibility is so important because people need to know real queer people, not just characters in the media who do not always accurately represent the LGBTQ+ community.

While being out is so important, do not feel pressured to come out. If your not in a safe place, or just are not ready to do so, you do not need to come out.

However, if you are looking for advise on how to come out, here are some students coming out stories

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“Coming out is such a big thing to so many that I didn’t think that anyone would be able to forget the first time, until I did. My best friend had to remind me. We have both been very stubborn our whole lives, this was more true when we young than now. When we were young we both always had to be the one that was right. He told me that it was illegal for boys to marry boys and girls to marry girls. I told him that he was wrong and that I was going to marry a girl one day. At the time I said that to be right.”

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“I came out as bi in seventh grade. I was out for a few months but then I went back in the closet cause it freaked me out. And then I came out as bi again. Both my parents were pretty accepting, though my mom was almost a bit awkward with it. This past year I came out as a lesbian and my dad’s response was actually kind of funny. He said ‘I’m the only lesbian in this family.’”

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“My coming out story is kind of funny. So it’s 2014, I’m 12 and I’m like ‘oh no, I’m the ‘big gay’ and so I have this big freak out. In 2014 the middle musical was ‘Shrek The Musical’. My mom and I were on the way to ‘Shrek The Musical’ at the high school and I kept thinking ‘it’s now or never, it’s now or never.’ So I’m like ‘Mom,’ and she’s like ‘yeah,’’ I said ‘if I don’t tell you now I’m not going to tell you for another six months.’ She said, ‘okay,’ and I’m like ‘Mom I’m a homosexual.’ Then she’s like, ‘alright, you want to talk about it?’ And I was like ‘NO’ and I jumped out of the car and ran into the high school.”

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“I’m pretty sure my mom knew since sixth grade. She would do this weird thing where she would point at people and be like, ‘how about that guy?’ And I’d be like ‘I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.’ In sixth grade I lived in a small town and they didn’t have a LGBT space at my school. So I was talking to my mom and I said, ‘I’m thinking of starting a GSA at school,’ and she was like, ‘okay, but they’re going to think you’re gay.’ Then I said, ‘yeah that would be so weird wouldn’t it.’”

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Why one student felt the need to come out – “The only gay exposure I had before I came out was my uncle… He is the reason I came out. He didn’t come out until he was 25 and I remember him telling his story and crying to my dad, … and that was after his father died. So he was never able to tell his father, and that’s one of his biggest regrets. And I realized when I was twelve years old, I was like ‘big gay’ in the closet, and I realized I didn’t want that to be me. I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Sharing each other’s coming out stories empowers closeted people to come out and creates allies.

Coming out encourages others to live their most authentic life. But if you suspect that someone you know might be LGBTQ+ DO NOT out them. It is not safe for everyone to be out. Coming out is such a personal thing, that you need to decide to do for yourself when you are ready to do.

Representation matters so much and is so important. It makes the world safer for more LGBTQ+ people to be out.

You deserve to unapologetically be you. You deserve to be able to live your most vibrant, genuine, and simply your most happy life.

But if you cannot be out this National Coming Out Day, please know that you are loved. Know that you are not broken. You might not know it yet, but you have a community with members from all over the world who understand you and accept you.

Caption for my story covering the nationwide walkout which took place on March 14, 2018, one month after the Parkland shooting:

Students participated in a nationwide walkout and stood in silence for 17 minutes to honor the 17 killed in Parkland, Florida one month prior.

Caption for my story covering the nationwide walkout which took place on April 20, 2018:

On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, students participated in a nationwide walkout to protest gun violence. Over sixty students traveled to Salem to talk to Oregon representatives on how they plan to fight for better gun control.

My story on how students relax and distress while studying:

Preparing oneself for finals week isn’t only limited to studying. These students chose to get ready for finals by relaxing their mind. “Yoga can be really relaxing, it helps me rid my stress for finals,” Hailey Bravo said.

What better way to prepare your mind than yoga? Yoga classes were held either before or after school during finals days to help students relax. Students discovered that it was a great way to relieve stress, and they feel like some techniques, such as breathing excersizes, they had learned in yoga really helped them during finals, “it helps with my mental health, and I don’t have to focus on school so much, I can just focus on my own well being.” Sydney Steinberg said.

Yearbook captions

The caption that I wrote on my story covering the nationwide walkout which took place on March 14, 2018, one month after the Parkland shooting. 

we have had #ENOUGH

Students participated in a nationwide walk out with 17 minutes of silence to honour the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida one month prior.

#notonemore. During the 17 minutes of silence, Xavier Juhala, 12 holds a sign with the name of one of the students lost in the Florida school shooting. “The most offensive, obscene part of the string of shootings has been the lack of reaction. Not just from the government, when it is seemingly incapable of causing any gun control legislation, but from a populace that seems willing to sit back and accept it,” Wallace Milner, 11 said. “I think you have an obligation when you see something like mass murder to stand up and demand change. I think that’s your obligation as a human being.” 

“If we really want to make an impact we must push to have conversations about crafting solutions and trying to find some common ground.” -Laila Elmashni, 12

#enoughisenough. At the March For Our Lives, Moya Moses, 10 holds a sign reading “Protect Kids Not Guns, Gun Reform Now” with Makenna Kellogg. “I wanted to honor kids just like me who had to go through something so terrible, people who had to hide in closets and bathrooms and classrooms and importers in their desks with the lights off for an hour because they thought they were going to die; and for the 17 people that lost their lives because of tragedy. I participated in the walkout because I have to go to school and fear for this too. It’s a constant fear in our nation right now that something like this will happen to us, I think that needs to change,” Susie Walters, 10 said. #neveragain. At the March For Our Lives, Bella Royer, 10 and Moya Moses, 10 marching. “I felt the need to participate in the walkout because I felt that if every school shows support, it would prove to our community that we actually cared about it. Even though it didn’t happen here it still impacted every student,” Moses said.

Yearbook stories on school traditions

Stories on my school’s oldest living tradition, May Day, which I wrote with two other students on my yearbook staff.

Dancing in the Moonlight

The 2018 May Day theme is one to remember.

This event has been a school tradition for almost a century now. Everyone had the chance to show off their talents through acting, singing, dancing and more during May Day. ASB and Leadership worked together for months to make May Day a memorable experience for the audience and for the court members as well. “We had like 600 handmade origami stars, a huge moon, and huge handmade clouds!” Aubrey Wagy, 11 said. “The theme is Dancing in the Moonlight, and it was super exciting.”

For the May Court, this was an experience they would never forget. They were able to be royalty for a night. “May Day was a literal dream that I feel like I haven’t woken up from yet,” Munya Fashu-Kanu, 12 said. “Being a part of the May court was an unforgettable experience, and I’m so happy that I was able to bond with everyone before the end of senior year.”

May Day was a huge success, with a wide variety of acts. “Watching a bunch of kids from the school perform and show off their various talents was super cool,” Sydney Steinberg, 11 said. “Especially the non-traditional stuff like when kids do magic or when kids do escape artistry was really cool for people to show off.”

King & Queen

Royalty gets serenaded by Fresh Pitch.

Get shreked. Serenading Queen Brady, George Ankeney, 11, Sonny Kusaka, 12 and Samuel Raffetto, 12 of Fresh Pitch sing the song I’m a Believer from the movie, Shrek. “We wanted to pick a song that would be really cheesy and that the audience can sing along to,” George Ankeney, 11 said. A real good time. Serenading King Matt, Megan Driggers, 11 Chloe Voeller, 12 and Audrey Lipsey, 10 of Fresh Pitch sing Let’s Hear It for the Boys. “In 8th grade for the middle school musical, most of us were in the Footloose Musical,” Brady McDevitt, 12 explained. “It was just kind of a throwback, but it’s also just a really good song.” All hail. 2018 May Day princess Aly Sato crowns Queen Brady McDevitt, 12 alongside King Matt Lewis, 12. “May Day was an absolute dream. I’m so grateful to be your May Day king, and I couldn’t be more happy!” Lewis said. “This group of people [The Court] is so caring and supportive I’m so glad to have become closer with them.” King Matt was ecstatic to be coronated with his best friend. “We could move mountains together,” Lewis said.

Blog posts

#PrayForOrlando

TheAntiMedia posted “Last week, Americans were scared of gays in public restrooms and memorizing a Muslim sports figure.  This week they suddenly care about gays and are afraid of Muslims.” We are fed new stories all the time.  We react by coming together, and dedicating posts and starting conversations.  But then a new story comes along and the conversation dies out, so nothing gets done.  The conversations have to continue.  Right now we are coming together, grieving over the souls lost in the largest mass shooting in this countries recent history.  This was a hate crime.  We need more love, more acceptance.  We live in a “free” country, we should be free to express ourselves for who we are, without the fear of being hurt for doing so. It’s absolutely horrible how people being themselves, and loving who they love led to this.  May the victims rest in Peace, Paradise, and Pride.
#PrayForOrlando #PrayForPeace#NoHateJustLove #LoveisLove

#PrayForPeace

Since the start of the Paris attack yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of hatred against Muslims on social media… I’ve seen people say that this was all Muslims fault, that they wish all Muslims will die, get cancer, and that EVERY last Muslim should be not allowed in Europe, or the United States… Do the people saying these things realize that they are accusing a religion of 1.5 billion people for murder? that they are blaming and choosing to hate on a religion? Not every terrorist is Muslim, and not every Muslim is a terrorist. I am not Muslim but I know that the Quran reads NOT to murder, and not to suicide. In my opinion, the terrorists were not really Muslim if they believed that this attack was their duty… how could terrorism have a religion? how could killing hundreds of people be to serve a God?
Please send good vibes, and please, hope the best for humanity…. #PrayForHumanity

#prayforparis #prayforjapan#prayforgaza #prayforyemen#prayforpakistan #prayforpalestine#prayforafghanistan #prayforiraq#prayforsudan #prayformakkah#prayfornepal #prayforsomalia#prayforbaghdad #prayforbeirut #prayformexico #prayforjapan