Editor’s note: Cheyenne Fonda, a recent graduate of Liberty Bell High School, prepared this article is part of her senior project, in conjunction with the newspaper.
Young Methow Voices: Part 2
By Cheyenne Fonda
This article is a part of my “Student Voices” senior project and analyzes the last half of a survey taken by middle school students. Its purpose is to share the opinions of young voices with the community of the Methow Valley. This half of the survey asks one question: What out of the following do you think needs to be paid closer attention to in the valley and/or in school: cross-cultural awareness, economic inequality, financial instability/stability, sexuality, or other variables?
The survey results were fairly spread out. Some of the participants advocated that other things need to be paid closer attention to in the valley and/or in its schools. These included the quality of their school’s lunch, being made fun of and/or profiled based on one’s religion, age and/or physical appearance, drug usage, and the idea that whatever unhealthy behavior and/or events kids are exposed to at a young age affects how they act later on in life.
All of these concepts are valid. Regarding religion and physical appearance, I don’t think anyone should be made fun of based on either of the two. Since differences between people’s religion and other variables to one’s identity will always exist both in and outside of the valley, I believe that we should accept those differences, while trying not to force them upon others.
I agree with the idea that whatever unhealthy behavior and/or events kids are exposed to at a young age affects how they act later on in life. I think that this is why from a young age, there could be an advantage to kids learning how to disassociate themselves from said event and/or behavior. Not so much that that event and/or behavior is alien to them, but enough that it does not harm them.
Many students said that cross-cultural awareness needs to be paid closer attention to. Some said that this is because people do not accept others because of one’s culture. There was also a comment that cross-cultural awareness needs to be further considered both in their school and in the valley “because people are racist and mean.”
I can agree with cross-cultural awareness needing to be paid closer attention to, and some of the reasons that some students discussed as to why that is. Regarding the Methow Valley and its schools, I think that both are ethnically and culturally insulated. Hence, I believe that we should try to break down that insulation bit by bit. One way to do that could be by gradually building one’s exposure to different languages, cultures, interests, etc. However, I think that discrimination shouldn’t be condoned. It should be discussed and/or acted upon. Concerning school systems, this action could be one that permanently affects a student’s academic record.
Economic inequality and financial instability/stability received an equal amount of deliberation. Some said that they believe their voice is not heard at their school because of both factors. One student explained that “people cannot pursue their life further than the valley due to economic inequality.” Other opinions described that people that are poorer in this community have a lot of difficulty living here because the cost of living is excessively high.
I can see a point to all of these ideas. For some, I believe that the cost of living can restrict or limit a young person’s career/professions options. On the contrary, I think that the way a young person perceives their circumstances can be part of what is restricting their career/profession options. This valley offers a decent amount of options. I also believe that one can take advantage of exploring and/or accessing those options. The options may feel suffocating, but they are options nevertheless and can act as building blocks to one’s future. As to why people that are poorer in this community have a significant amount of difficulty living in the valley, I think that every region has a certain population that has a hard time. Given how COVID-19 is and has been financially impacting people globally, I believe that almost everyone is having a hard time living in the city or region that they live in now.
The minority of students mainly suggested that sexuality/sexual orientation needs to be paid closer attention to in the valley and/or school. A comment from one student explaining why this is so is as follows: “I don’t think my voice is heard mostly because I don’t want it to be heard.” Contemplating this comment, I am not sure what it implies.
Generally speaking, I did not want my voice to be heard in middle school. Concerning sexual orientation, there were no resources at my previous school that addressed the wide range of said orientations. This was especially the case with the Sex Ed program that my prior school provided. That said, there have been a couple of resources put into place since then, within both the valley and some of its schools that do so.
Reflecting on my middle-school years, I could relate to a lot of the feelings and experiences that some students expressed in this half of the survey. Strangely, I have learned how to embrace some of my past experiences. Nevertheless, I didn’t think that there were enough resources when I was a middle schooler, both in the valley and in its schools, that fully addressed, provided factual information on, and/or gave a safe space to discuss cross-cultural awareness, economic inequality, financial instability/stability, sexuality, and/or other variables to one’s understanding of themselves and others. Despite any resources that have been put into place since then, I believe both myself and younger people I knew at the time could have benefitted from more of those resources being available and/or put into use during or even before the time that they and myself were middle schoolers.
I want to thank all of the students who participated in this survey. I understand that some of these topics can be hard to bring up or begin to converse about.
Editor’s note: this is the speech Ali Palm delivered to her classmates last week.
A unique class steps out into the world
By Ali Palm
Valedictorian, Liberty Bell High School Class of 2020
First off I would like to say how honored I am to stand before you all and share… Oh wait, that’s what I WOULD have said at our original graduation. Hold on, I have to grab the COVID intro.
Never did I think that I would be giving a valedictorian speech through the newspaper and that everyone else would be reading it long after graduation. But, I guess all of this is just a big lesson on learning to adapt to change and accept that things don’t always work out as planned. With that, I am done referring to the c-word because I know everyone is incredibly sick of that being the topic of most things you hear. So instead, I’ll give you something else to talk about, the Liberty Bell class of 2020.
As a class of quite broad personalities, we are unique in every sense of the word. I’m sure in every graduation speech, every year, this is stated, but this year it’s truly meant. Not every class can say that they’ve single-handedly made fifth-grade teachers quit their jobs (at least that’s what we like to claim), became the talk of the DC trip by simply saying the phrase “yee yee” (shout out to Jed and Abel), or had quite the heartwarmingly odd relationships with our teachers as we do. In no way are we an ordinary group and I for one think it best that way. Sometimes we get annoyed with each other or frustrated by our differences, as you do, but we will always have countless memories that bring us together. In 20 years we’ll be saying, “Hey, do you remember the epic ending to the football game against Manson sophomore year?” Or, “remember when Alex’s music blew up and we saw him on The Ellen Show a few years ago?”
And we’ll be glad that we still have that connection.
Looking to the future
During this process of thinking back on our time together, I have also realized how excited I am to see what the future holds for each of us. Just like our parents and the community, many of us have seen each other grow from a young child into our now, adult selves. We have witnessed each other go through funky phases, slowly become more mature, and over the past year, grow into antsy students who are ready for the next stage of life where we can take our own path. We may all be master procrastinators right now, as anyone from the school would know, but we’re probably just reserving our energy for our future selves. As a collective, we are full of future photographers, Olympic skiers, van life enthusiasts, dental hygienists, welders, mechanics, nurses, Chinese translators, ski bums, military service members, environmental workers, doctors, entrepreneurs, veterinarians and so much more. You will be hearing about our achievements for years to come. Just like how we have been bombarded with questions about our upcoming future the last year, you will from now on not be able to stop hearing about how well we are doing from our family. I guess you get what you ask for.
As we do all split ways to go and pursue our passions, wherever and however that may be, we will all also make many mistakes, some very big like when Julie broke a door lock while trying to pick it with a crayon in fourth grade. But, I am glad that we will all be doing this together and that we have this amazing community that will always be here for us to dig out that crayon and help send us through the door with many new opportunities. Each of our lives has been shaped by the willingness of older peers to share wisdom and experiences through explanation, or in many cases a full-on internship or job. This is definitely a special place in the way that if you reach out to anyone they will help you in a heartbeat and then give you the numbers of everyone they know just to make sure you are covered. This kind of additional support mixed with our parents and all teachers K through 12 is THE reason why we are all sitting at home having just graduated and are fully prepared to take on the world in the coming months, so thank you to everyone.
And on a last note, an important lesson I learned this year from Ms. Leuth that I will take into my life is that any problem can be fixed with a little complaining and a lot of chocolate.
Thank you for supporting the grad class of 2020.