Mixed Student Impressions of “Campus Impressions” Presentation

Emily Rekully, An Army of One

[The following is an editorial, endorsed by the leadership of Warrior Ink, though the specific opinions remain those of the author and those quoted.]

It seems, at least to me, that every year at Indian River High School we have a different type of “Positivity” or “Anti-Bullying” assembly. It’s a common occurence to try different ways to get students to stop bullying, such as previous years’ Rachel’s Challenge presentation.

This year was a whole different direction: Campus Impressions.

As stated on their website, Campus Impressions “…has been speaking and performing for elementary, middle, high school, and college audiences…” And their “Ouch!: Bullying Prevention and Peer Empowerment” might have been better to keep for the younger audiences.

I have a few things to note about this assembly. One of the biggest complaints I had was the usage of “To This Day” a poem by Shane Koyczan without giving him any credit. Koyczan’s empowering poetry was used during their performance, and yet his name was not once mentioned or displayed.  Considering all the emphasis that teachers put on students to avoid even accidental plagiarism, in some views the group was taking credit for work that clearly doesn’t belong to them.

It was also pretty obvious, from both their website, and the gossip before the show, that the members of the group are all members (mostly paid staff) of New Life Church in Watertown, and were therefore definitely familiar faces to some students and faculty.

Though the performers all avoided any direct mention of their church, it was clear to most observers what their roots are. One of the main speakers, Joseph Gilchrist, has honed his pitch “you have value” as a youth pastor with New Life, and has organized a youth basketball tournament at JCC which was heavily promoted here last spring.  This is not the New Life group’s first attempt to reach out to the Indian River campus, either.  They have previously sponsored a Teacher Appreciation Day luncheon.

I furthermore noticed that one of the speaker’s stories sounded very familiar. This story was about one of the speakers, Jennifer Hopper, saying hello to a fellow student, a boy that was ignored and not social. Her story went on to say that the student had been planning to harm himself that day, but Hopper’s acknowledging his existence caused him to pause, and not follow through with his plans. This was extremely similar to a story told about Rachel Scott standing up for a marginalized student in Rachel’s Challenge. Is it possible that both of these students experienced the same and/or similar situations? Yes, but they were uncannily similar.

There were a lot of other different opinions surrounding Tuesday the 9th’s assembly–some did find it enjoyable or worthwhile. One student, Adrianna Weldon, says, “It had a great message. It showed that life isn’t always good to you, but you just have to keep going.”

Another student, Jordan Hack, also found the assembly to be enjoyable saying, “Honest, it was actually good for once. I felt that it actually did it’s job for once and students enjoyed it.”

Other opinions were also formed, just as Zoey, “No one can be treated completely equal because no one mind is the same at all. We, as human beings, judge immediately.”

Some students and staff definitely enjoyed the music of the show, but many complained about some lights that were pointed directly at the audience.

So overall, there was a mixed reaction to the assembly. I stand with the students that see the assembly as a good idea, but in my view, it was just not presented in a way suitable for older students.

One teacher I talked to, who asked to remain anonymous, noted about the group, “At least they are local.”  He added: “They told kids [in the assembly] to find a trusted adult, and then the announcement right after school was ‘sorry kids, all the adults are in a faculty meeting today.'”

While the idea was well-meaning, just judging by what I overheard in the halls afterward, many of the students didn’t take it seriously. As a student myself, I find that there is considerably less physical bullying or harassment that is outwardly shown in the halls. Either our generation is rather kind, or we are just clever in hiding our bullying/harassment, that is up to the interpreter. The assembly was centered around being positive and friendly, which most of us have heard a million times, so students weren’t taking it seriously. If you hear one thing too many times, it can become a joke. Students who have been here four years could definitely be a bit jaded.

Bullying is still a problem, yes, but I find that the Campus Impressions assembly just didn’t do the job quite right. Even with very professional anti-bullying such as Rachel’s Challenge the same thing happened: it was overdone and therefore quickly passed from students’ minds. So, maybe such similar assemblies aren’t quite the right approach to, according to a poster in one stairwell “stomp out bullying.”