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Redmond high assembly celebrates differences among students

Redmond High students participate in the RESPECT assembly. Students stood or raised their hands if statements read aloud applied to them. Topics ranged from having siblings to worrying about their next meals. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Redmond High students participate in the RESPECT assembly. Students stood or raised their hands if statements read aloud applied to them. Topics ranged from having siblings to worrying about their next meals.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

On Wednesday morning, the sounds of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” filled the Redmond High School (RHS) gym as students filed in and took their seats on the bleachers.

They were getting ready to witness the school’s first-ever RESPECT Assembly and just as the pop star’s song promotes and celebrates the differences among people, the assembly emphasized how there is more to people than meets the eye.

In addition to the literal meaning of the word, the leadership students who organized and ran the assembly used RESPECT as an acronym that stands for religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, personal style, economic status, culture and traits — just a few things that make an individual who they are and should be respected.

LOOKING BEYOND RACE AND ETHNICITY

Junior Shelby Albrecht, one of the student organizers, said they wanted to stress that you don’t necessarily have to love everyone but you should respect them.

“Everyone deserves that respect,” she said.

Albrecht and the rest of the organizers — senior Mariama Suwaneh and sophomores Bailey Campbell, Angelica Mason and Jennifer Martinez — were initially planning on holding a diversity assembly for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, which would focus on race and ethnicity as similar assemblies have in the past. However, after consulting with school administration and the associated student body executive council, the assembly organizers gave it more thought, Albrecht said they realized RHS’s issues of diversity are wide ranging and go beyond the scope of race and ethnicity.

“It’s trying to hit many needs across the school,” said RHS activities coordinator Myra Arnone, who is the adviser for the leadership class.

Arnone said rather than focusing on an anti-bullying message, the RESPECT Assembly is focused on the school coming together — a more positive way of approaching things.

Martinez said they hope the assembly will help improve school culture and the way students interact with each other.

The assembly began with a video called “Perspectacles,” which focuses on looking below the surface and realizing not everyone is as they seem.

“You don’t see everything at a glance,” Martinez said, adding that the goal is to show that people are multifaceted. “You should take that into consideration.”

While leadership students organized the assembly, they recruited students outside of their class to be the emcees: seniors Kara Chambers and Ben Sechrest and junior Sarang Joshi.

Chambers said the message of respect is a very important one and “you just hope it gets across.”

A PERSONAL TOUCH

RHS principal Jane Todd said the students did a fantastic job with the assembly as the topic of respect has the potential to be “preachy” or sad. She said the organizers made sure to have a nice combination of thought-provoking and touching activities.

Todd particularly enjoyed a portion of the assembly in which students were asked to stand up if particular statements applied to them. The statements began with broader subjects such as whether students had siblings or wanted to go to college. They gradually dug deeper below the surface, asking whether students felt they had a place for them at RHS, whether they worried about their next meal or having a roof over their head and more. It was stressed that the activity was voluntary but this didn’t stop students from acknowledging some of their personal struggles.

“I was really pleased and touched,” Todd said about witnessing this.

AN ONGOING EFFORT

The RESPECT assembly is just the beginning for RHS. Suwaneh said they plan to continue the message throughout the rest of the year.

The plan is to show videos in the classroom as a followup. In addition, they hope to have a few students swap lives for a day with each other, teachers and other staff throughout the school so people have a better understanding of how the people around them live. The organizers wanted to do this before the RESPECT assembly and show a video, but they weren’t able to coordinate schedules and other logistics in time.

At the end of the year, Suwaneh said they want to have a “challenge day,” which will be similar to the “stand up if” activity during Wednesday’s assembly. However for this day, students would be in smaller groups and the questions would be even more personal.

Martinez said they hope the assembly will be the starting point of a safe environment within the school community in which people can come out from behind the walls they build around themselves and allow themselves to be vulnerable because they know they will be respected.

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