Behind the curtain

HR Assembly focuses on students’ stories


Jose Salguero

Chloe Skinner reads her story at HR Assembly on March 14. Skinner and a specially selected group of students read stories about their struggles from behind the theater curtain. Afterwards, they all elected to go out on stage and reveal themselves to their peers.

By Maria Sotelo

Last Thursday, the auditorium went silent as the room dimmed. At the center of the stage, brightly colored spotlights gave their focus on empty seats. Leadership members wearing neon orange shirts surrounded the auditorium and greeted students as they entered and seated themselves for this year’s human rights (HR) assembly.

    The assembly would later on cover sensitive subjects. If at any time students felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave, leadership members assured them that it was okay; they would be there for them.

    The leadership HR committee decided to change things up a bit this year, inspired by what they had seen done at McMinnville High School. After seeing that staff and students alike at McMinnville saw a positive change in the school’s environment after doing a similar project, Tigard wanted to do the same according to the head of HR, senior Maya Shaker.

    “We decided in order to build a better connection with our students we needed to hear from students,” Shaker said. “That’s how we decided to choose to have student speakers share their experiences.”

    Hailey Bigej, Mikah Baudino, Oscar Nieves Lira, Sajjad Al Rikabi, Cambrea Langwell, Levi Foreslund, Chloe Skinner, Daniel Au, and Mackenzie Backer were nominated by students and staff to audition. They were all selected by the HR committee to share their stories.

    The students spoke of their life experiences ranging from gender identity, to immigration, to mental and physical health disorders. They risked their own vulnerability in the hopes of letting those who are going through similar things know that they are never alone.

    Leadership coordinator Mackenzie Coulson explained how the speakers crafted their narratives themselves without much help from anyone.

    “The only thing that we asked is that they performed it in front of a student and staff panel so that we could just give them some feedback,” Coulson said.

    One of the speakers, senior Oscar Nieves Lira, spoke about how migrating from Mexico to the US affected him. As he adapted to his new environment, he began to forget who he was, his culture. His story’s purpose was to support others like himself.

    “I wanted to see if[…] my story could resonate with someone else so that they can find a way to reconnect with who they are because it felt really bad, not being able to remember who you are, what makes you you,” Lira said. “I wanted to help someone try making that connection a lot easier.”

    Oscar’s sister, junior Citlali Nieves Lira, was unaware of how much migrating to the U.S. had impacted her brother’s life but was glad that he opened up about it.

    “I’m feeling that way as well. It just helped me figure out that I’m not alone and it’s something that happens. Maybe other people who can’t even go back home feel the same way. Many immigrants who don’t have the opportunity to go back home feel the same way, and I think it’s very important for people to realize that it’s something that people go through,” Lira stated.

    Senior Daniel Au and Chloe Skinner decided to tell their stories not only to reach out to students but to also make themselves feel better.

    “You don’t always want to open up about the hard things in your life, but sometimes it feels like you need to share it in order to feel at peace with yourself,” Au says.

    “I felt a lot less heavy afterwards, I felt like there was a weight lifted off of me, because I got my story out, everything’s out in the open,” Skinner added.

    Although the speakers sounded calm, it wasn’t that easy behind the scenes. For this reason and for students, the assembly was held in the auditorium, to provide a setting that feels safer than the school’s gym. Being behind the curtain made things easier, easier enough that in the end, the speakers felt comfortable enough to reveal their identities.

    “It’s a story I’m normally pretty comfortable with sharing with close friends, and since you’re not looking at the audience, it’s not too hard to share either,” Au said. “But it was definitely hard starting it.”

    Audience members were greatly impacted. Some even cried.

    “I cried during most of it,” sophomore Carmen Bull said. “It was really amazing to see people show what they’ve been through.”

    Sophomore Lovey Hernandez thought the assembly was amazing. “Hearing their stories was shocking because many students can relate to them and are struggling with the same things too,” Hernandez said.

    “I really enjoyed the assembly because it was new and a great idea because everyone has a story but it’s hard to find a good platform to share it,” junior Emma Vu said.

    Chloe Skinner thought that the changes allowed this year’s assembly to be more significant than other years.

    “For HR assemblies in the past we’ve had speakers come in,” Skinner said. “Having people from within the school was really meaningful because having people be hidden, and the student body not knowing who it is until they step out, kind of gives this idea that everybody has a story and you don’t know who that could be.”

    Maya Shaker wanted students to listen to their other peers and understand where they’re coming from, build a connection and have empathy.

    Coulson’s hope is that the assembly will have an effect and change the student body. “The hard thing is keeping it going for the rest of the year, letting students know that their stories matter,” Coulson said.