Five juniors, one group project, a whole community
It may be easy for some to label MVHS students as academically-focused, overachieving and stressed-out. But instead of writing off high school as four years of FML moments, five juniors are on a mission to promote a different mindset on campus: focusing on what "Gives Me Hope."
Inspired by the existing Gives Me Hope (GMH) website and the Henry M. Gunn High School spin-off, juniors Nicolette Duong, Melanie Gordon, Andrew Shiah, Rosa Valtanen and Briana Zimmers launched the MVHS version of the internet phenomenon: Monta Vista Gives Me Hope (MVGMH). This simple blog, launched on Feb. 7, features a compilation of entries from community members about why or how, MVHS gives them hope.
The idea for an MVHS-centric Gives Me Hope website began with the American Literature social justice project. According to the group’s literature teacher Diana Combs, the project was created several years ago by the American Literature teachers, in order for students to learn about social injustice in the community, and then do their part to improve that corner of the world.
"When we teach the social [injustice] unit…we’re trying to get students to understand what it means to have a message and to get their message out to the community," Combs said. "This group has definitely taken it to a…different level."
Duong, Gordon, Shiah, Valtanen and Zimmers united over the topic of mental health, and narrowed the focus of their project to teen depression and suicide.
"There are people being disadvantaged because of their religion or their culture, and in this case it was really because of age," Combs said. "We have students who are really suffering from depression and other types of mental health issues…so that’s kind of where it all started."
As stated on the MVGMH website, the goal is to "reach out to our community and provide hope and inspiration for any individual, no matter what situation they may be in."
"We wanted to find a way to not necessarily prevent suicide… but to find an outlet for students to reduce some of their stresses or whatever they’re going through," Valtanen said.
The group also promotes the idea of getting help for individual problems, either through school resources like Student Advocate Richard Prinz or campus counselors, or through the help links and hotline numbers posted on the website. In other words, according to Shiah, the group is working to address the "root of the problem" rather than the effects.
As it has spread through Facebook and word of mouth, the site has garnered attention from a global MVHS community as current students, staff and alumni share inspiration in the form of pictures, videos and anecdotes.
"I would say that [the MVGMH website as a result of the social injustice project] is just an example of students rising to the occasion," Combs said. "I think that [MVHS] students always rise to the occasion. And that is one of the reasons why MVGMH."
The MVGMH website can be found at http://mvgmh.wordpress.com.