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High School to celebrate 'Diversity through Unity'

Special week showcases talents, addresses disturbing incident

Members of various clubs at Forest Grove High School are planning fun and educational events for each day during Unity Through Diversity Week, which runs from next Monday, April 18, to Friday, April 22.

They hope to celebrate the strengths of different groups and address a couple of this year’s disturbing incidents.

FGHS has been organizing the week each school year for several years under different names and with an evolving focus. When it first started, the week focused on celebrating special-needs students and has morphed through the years, said Daniel Stapp, a language arts teacher who doubles as FGHS’s activity director.

This year, the week will celebrate not just diverse languages and skin colors, but also varied skills, interests, experiences and knowledge.

“When we utilize our skill sets in a school this big, we show strength,” he said. “When we try to force everyone to be the same, we show weakness.”

Many of the school’s more than 40 clubs plan to showcase what they do and why other students might want to join them.

The Vikettes Dance Team, for example, will teach members of the special-needs Partners Club a few basic dance moves. The culinary club will distribute favorite recipes. The poetry club will host a poetry slam. The Earth Club will be giving out garden starter packs.

Stapp is hoping the week’s packed schedule will help the students feel proud of their school. “A lot of times clubs will go into a room and close the door and people don’t know what we do,” he said.

At the end of the week, Stapp will spearhead the unveiling of the school’s “campaign to end racism” with a speech about the power of words. The assembly is in part a response to an incident earlier this year in which a student called a FGHS teacher a racial slur.

“We want to deal honestly with this,” said Stapp, who isn’t planning to bring up any specific incidents in his talk. “It’s not about punishment, but words do matter. They define who we are and what we do.”

At the assembly, the FGHS band and choir and three student rappers will perform songs that fit the theme. Three FGHS upper classmen are writing the introduction to the campaign. The’re also designing a logo they’ll print onto stickers and hand out.

Stapp is going to encourage people to start using the hashtag #itendswithme. “If we all stand up and disallow disrespectful language to be around us then it won’t be around us anymore,” Stapp said. “Even if you’re not the one using the language, don’t be a silent partner. Don’t be giving the person using it the moral allowance to be that way.”

He’s hoping the energy of the assembly will drive the campaign through the end of the school year. In the fall, it might still be going strong or maybe administrators will organize a refresher. “We’ll ride it as long as it goes,” Stapp said. “You never know when something will really catch on.”

Stapp will address all derogatory language against a group or individual, whether that’s a racial slur or calling something stupid “gay” and everything in between.

Stapp is hoping the assembly and campaign will address problems within the school without perpetuating more anger. “It’s important for people to understand that making mistakes can be a crucial part of learning,” Stapp said. “It’s okay if someone has made a mistake as long as there is someone there to teach. If we want to change a school culture we want to bring everyone along with us.”