Behind the curtain again

The Voices assembly returns after a pandemic hiatus


During the Voices assembly, students spoke on

By Meileen Arroyo

     For the first time since 2019, Tigard High’s voices assembly made its return. Tigard introduced the voices assembly during the 2018-2019 school year as a way for student speakers to anonymously share challenges they have overcome in order to build a more united community. 

     The voices assembly was organized by English and social justice leadership teacher Mckenzie Coulson and student leader Natalie Mazzeo. The first step to putting together this assembly is interviewing the students that signed up to share their stories. 

     “A teacher panel of me and about four other teachers just sit in, listen and give feedback to the speaker […] Then from there we kind of decide whether they’re green lighted and ready to share their story or if they maybe need more time.” Coulson said, “[…] We don’t really like to cut anyone so we encourage students to make the small tweaks and be very confident about what they want to share. Then we just practice and practice and practice.”

     Coulson explains that the sensitive nature of these stories makes the planning a more challenging process.

     “Sometimes students want to share something that doesn’t really fit within the parameters of voices because it will either make other students feel unsafe or make them unsafe. We ask if that ever arises for them to rework it or maybe [voices] isn’t the platform for them to share that.”

     The voices assembly gives students a platform to use their voice and vulnerability to share their adversities with the audience. This event is a chance for students to connect and learn from one another. Junior Henry Castillo, a speaker at the assembly, talks about what he hopes the audience takes away from his speech.

     “I hope that people take away that support can come from anywhere and that you don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectations other than your own.” Senior and speaker, Kellen Jolley said, 

     “I hope people will take away the idea of self love and how important they are to THS. How diversity, uniqueness makes THS what it is and that they are valued and seen.”

     Because of the courage it takes to share a story with hundreds of your peers, students could choose to reveal themselves or stay behind the curtain. 

     “I chose to show who I was because I [felt] like it was important for me to put a face with the story,” Jolley said, “It was a cool opportunity for me to adapt to [my] male vulnerability and show people that you can be an athlete and be involved, but also have this side of you [that’s] a little bit deeper.” 

     The impact of voices is different for every student. Everyone learns something different and may even see themselves reflected through their peers’ stories. These students shared their thoughts on the voices assembly. 

     “[Voices] helped me put myself into other people’s shoes and realize how you never truly know what is going on with something and [that] you should never judge till you know the full story,” freshman Sebastian Morado said. 

     “One thing I took away from the assembly was [that] there are many different perspectives in one story and all of them matter. Everyone should be able to tell their perspective and others can learn from it,” freshman Nicholas Caldwell said. “You don’t really know a person because there’s always things they won’t tell you or that you don’t know about them, so you shouldn’t assume things about a person.” 

     “I think [the assembly] helps people who have similar stories. They get another view on how to handle it and realize they aren’t the only ones,” Sophomore Lili Tarabochia said. 

     After a year of being in distance learning, voices was an opportunity for our student body to feel more connected.

     “I think this is one step back towards getting back into some of those normal traditions that I think are really good for our culture here,” Coulson said.

     “I was so proud of all the students. I was so proud of the audience. I felt like [the speakers] were really heard,” Coulson said. “It exceeded my expectations all the way around. I hope that staff enjoyed it too and will give their classes as much opportunity to make those community connections as they can.”