Written by Jessie Shephard
In a time of much political debate and strife, where the nation as a whole seems more divided everyday, the concept of “unity” sounds more like an unrealistic utopian fantasy — a far-off dream. But here at Forest Grove High School, the effort to make that dream closer to a reality is alive with renewed enthusiasm, demonstrated through what we call “Unity Through Diversity.” Unity Through Diversity Week, which took place the week of March 12th, is where the student body is celebrated for its differences: it’s a week dedicated to recognizing that our demographics are more than just statistics and our school is made up of incredible students from all walks of life, each with a different, engaging story to tell. The week is centered around various activities that work to bring students together — activities like Positivity Chains, or thankful messages — while also aiming to acknowledge different groups and organizations at our school that make us unique.
“Unity Through Diversity Week was created as an opportunity to celebrate the strength of our school,” says Mr. Stapp, former ASB advisor who spearheaded the event originally. “It’s a celebration of how we’re all different, but in the end we’re really all the same, and that’s a wonderful thing. There’s a lot going on at this school that’s not always visible.” Above all, Unity Through Diversity Week is meant to focus on just that — visibility. For a school running a little on the smaller side, it’s incredible all the things we as students don’t always witness, and this last week operated as a sort of lighthouse to broaden our horizons to the people we’re surrounded with everyday that we don’t always notice. And in a time like this, that’s sentimentally something we desperately need — an event that has the “greatest potential to be a catalyst for healing” according to Mr. Stapp.
With all of this in mind, it’s impossible not to ponder what goes on behind-the-scenes. The truth is that Unity Through Diversity Week is a mostly student-run event. Elijah Gogo-Peters, a senior here at Forest Grove High School and ASB President, says the event means more to him than just another school spirit week. “Finding a sense of togetherness regardless of background is very important to me. It’s important that everyone feels at home here and everyone is recognized,” he says. Actually bringing the event into fruition, however, was not a simple task. Mr. Stapp describes the week as a “rough event” solely because of all the planning and participation that goes along with it. Coordinating with so many people, clubs, organizations, and groups aside, there are certain questions you have to ask of not only the student body, but yourself as well. How does this benefit the school? How will this connect me to the people around me? How do I contribute to a system of inclusion? Of exclusion? Paco Flores-Cruz, a senior and one of the students on the Unity Through Diversity event committee, claims the process was very stressful. “It was nerve-wracking trying to get everything right, from assembly schedules, to coordinating with all kinds of different groups of people,” he says, “but it was more than worth it in the end. Getting students to unite together… This is something I really hope continues to be a tradition that just gets better and better every year.”
This school is strong. We are a collection of students with beautiful things to share with the world, and Unity Through Diversity Week is a reminder of this fact. At a time where the future is clouded in uncertainty, one thing is for sure: this event and this school have the capacity to keep each other in their hearts, and the students behind it are a united front for whatever comes next.