Seaside High School’s Breaking the Silence group is preparing to douse Seaside with messages of positivity when they take to the streets for a Happiness Sprinkling on May 24.
They will be marching with dozens of their fellow students and teachers, as well as any community members who care to join. By carrying signs with positive messages, wearing yellow, handing out paper stars to passers-by along the way and playing uplifting music, they hope to spread joy and kindness in the community.
Shirley Yates, the faculty adviser for the Seaside group, said the students want “a climate change, where people are all treated equal and with honor.”
The idea for the Happiness Sprinkling was borrowed from the Anacortes Center for Happiness, which put on a similar demonstration in Anacortes, Wash., in May 2012. Since then, the Happiness Sprinkling Project has spread, first nationwide and now worldwide.
Breaking the silence
After a public incident of bullying at the high school earlier this year, a few students were moved to establish a group that would take a stand against not only bullying but all forms of violence, prejudice and abuse, and also provide a positive voice in the school and larger community.
“You can’t control the way you are,” said junior Celeste Kerr, who initiated the movement along with Jasmine Hewitt, Faythe Koontz and Brittany Case. “We shouldn’t be ridiculed in a school that’s supposed to be safe. If it is a safe, healthy environment, it’s not going to include that kind of stuff in our lives.”
Student Aaron Kiser described how too often at school, one will be looking at other individuals and see that “something is happening or someone is crying.”
“It’s always easy to be quiet and not say a word,” he said. “You’re just passing by or you’re busy.”
Yet, he added, while at first it may seem difficult to approach those people, talk to them and ask what’s going on, doing so can make a significant difference.
“Just asking someone if they’re okay can save a life,” agreed fellow student Kodie Stark.
Hence, Breaking the Silence was deemed a fitting description and title for what the students hope to accomplish by uniting with one another. Bullying has affected each of the members in one way or another. Some are the victims of bullying, some former perpetrators, and others were witnesses. A few had taken each role at one point or another. They have seen the negative ramifications of bullying, including self-harm and suicide, and want to make a difference.
“In order for a change to happen, everyone has to do something about it,” group member Autumn Benthien said. “That’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re trying to make that change and get everyone to not only see what they’re doing, but also help people with their struggles.”
When a tragedy occurs as a result of bullying, people often are shaken up and willing to change, but “that’s not how it should be,” Kiser said, adding people should be kind to one another “every single day without something like that happening.”
“It should never have to come to that,” he said.
Fellow student Lola Paser-Johnson echoed that sentiment.
“It’s sad to think that someone has to take their life in order for people to see that it’s a big thing, that someone has to kill themselves in order for people to realize, ‘Wow, bullying is a big deal,’” she said.
Planting seeds of change
While the students were unable to get the group established as an official club at the high school this school year, they hope to do so during the 2017-18 school year. Members, however, were unwilling to wait for a club designation to get to work.
They are each focusing on ways they can personally promote awareness, compassion and kindness at school and home.
“Not a lot of people know of all the different forms of bullying and how impactful it is to people in general,” student Gage Cain said. “You have to start somewhere, and by simply letting someone that it’s happening, it’s a start to changing.”
Desiring to create an even greater impact, Breaking the Silence also put together the Happiness Sprinkling and have made it into a schoolwide event, encouraging all students to take part. The objective is “focusing on the kindness part, focusing on the positive, rather than the negative,” by disseminating uplifting, motivational messages throughout Seaside, Kerr said.
On May 24 at 2 p.m. the students will leave the school starting from the entrance facing Holladay Drive and march downtown. At the memorial for fallen Seaside police Sgt. Jason Goodding, which sits outside the Pig ’N Pancake on Broadway, the marchers will linger and conduct a moment of silence. Then, they will move on to the Turnaround and take the Promenade north to 12th Avenue and head back to the high school.
The Silence Breakers are inviting community members and students from other schools to participate in the Happiness Sprinkling and march with them. They request that all participants wear yellow.
For more information, contact Yates at 503-738-5586.