Home Features Amplify student voices with the OH coalition

Amplify student voices with the OH coalition

Different kinds of people walking on a cartoon globe with country flags behind it.
Photo by Trinity Heard, 42Fifty

In April of the 2021-2022 school year, the newly formed OH Coalition hosted an Amplify event. Because of the newness of the Coalition, many students are unaware of what it entails and the Amplify event it hopes to continue hosting.

About the Coalition 

The OH Coalition uses its Amplify event to strengthen the voices of students, specifically those with marginalized identities, as they hope to bring awareness to the issues many groups face in our school. The three pillars of the OH Coalition are diversity, equity, and inclusion. The word “coalition” represents how the students have many differences but come together to make a change. The purpose and goal of the OH Coalition is to make the students of OHS feel heard. 

The board is made up of the following students: junior Corrina Ortiz, freshman Amaya Houston, junior Estafani Garcia, junior Rosie Abdelmaguid, and junior Laila Abouhaiba. Their sponsors are OHS teachers Jamie Piper, Dr. Jadon Waller, Michael Leali, and Milica Leone. 

“We were chosen by our teachers for all this to come together,”  Abouhaiba says.

Although the students will be leading the coalition, they were chosen directly as leaders when Dr. Jadon Waller, The Director of Diversity, Equity, and Family Engagement, asked teachers to recommend students trying to make a change. 

“[Dr. Waller] was the one who brought us all together, and chose us because of our ways to want to make change happen,” Abouhaiba says.

OH Coalition Mission Statement:

“Amplify is an organization made up of students who promote positive change and bring awareness to issues regarding traditionally marginalized identities. We do so to create solutions, a safe space for students, and uplift silenced voices.”

The students have already begun implementing ways to make changes by brainstorming different solutions. 

“We use agents of change, which basically means we see a lot of issues in our school, not just regarding diversity, just more regarding everything, and [lack of] respect is a big problem we’re trying to figure out”,  Abouhaiba says. “Mainly with our Generation Z we see a lot of problems and we talk about it a lot, so now we’re bringing those to light in school. For example, we’re looking towards creating better communication between teenagers and adults and teenagers-on-teenagers because we lose that connection.”

As far as taking action, the students already have big plans for the 2022-2023 school year.

“One of our goals is a gender-neutral bathroom,” Abouhaiba says. “This is a huge step for those who don’t feel comfortable in gender-based bathrooms.” 

In order to bring awareness and advertise the Coalition, the students will also be handing out or possibly selling accessories for students to wear around the school. 

“An idea we thought of was creating little trinkets that could advertise specific things,” Abouhaiba says. For example, in the abortion case of Roe v. Wade, we’re hoping to create little pins or stamps or have shirts.” 

Anyone can be a part of an Amplify event, and the OHS Coalition has open meetings, currently being held in room 135, Tuesdays after school. 

“We’re looking for people who are willing to keep the club moving for as long as we can [be]cause most of the people on the board are juniors so we’re obviously graduating soon,” Abouhaiba says. 

OH Coalition hopes to bring change to Oswego High School by using its Amplify events, as the first one took place on Apr. 7, 2022. 

The coalition was formed in the second semester of the current school year.

About Amplify

Amplify is an event run by the OH Coalition that spreads culture, diversity, and identity. Each Amplify event will be different from the last because the performances will be different. The very first Amplify event included a step team performance, a short video, a violin piece, a poetry reading, and many student stories. 

Amplify includes a panel discussion with speakers, performances, and students. The students hope to host an Amplify event each year. 

“[There were] performances by people who want to expand on their cultures and identities,” Abouhaiba says.

Amplify Coalition (Apr. 7, 2022)

Below are a few highlighted quotes from the Amplify video:

Many students began to share their experiences with names and how they use them to express their identities. 

Fayrouz Abdelmaguid shares how she goes by “Rosie” instead of Fayrouz to make it easier for everyone to pronounce. She loves her name and hopes to go by it in the future.  

They then discussed the difference between an ally and a co-conspirator.

“I think the difference between an ally and co-conspirator…is that [an] ally is someone that says they support you and they can repost things on social media but a co-conspirator is someone who’s right next to you, fighting the battle with you, and they’re someone who [is] stepping in your shoes, and even though they may not 100% understand what you’re going through, they’re gonna be right there no matter what,” Corrina Ortiz says. 

After this conversation, board member Abouhaiba played a violin piece for the crowd. 

Alumni Siarra O’Neill then shared her story of coming out as a lesbian with the judgment of friends and family. She also discussed a suicide route she almost fell down. 

“Even though mental health is our responsibility, it is not our fault,” O’Neill says.

She also discussed how homophobic language and microaggressions can cause harm. She still feels the same pain she felt when she was a student here because of how many staff continue to allow homophobic language and microaggressions to be spoken throughout the school. 

“So I call on [staff] to be more intentional with their words, to spread more love and less hate, and to stop being complacent and tolerant of our youth’s use of microaggressions and homophobic language,” O’Neill says.  “We’re all in the pursuit of the same thing, and that’s happiness. So I hope you all will join me in the fight of a more accepting and inclusive world.”

The members then share their experiences about “inequitable experiences” during the school day. 

Speaker Jayla Pointdexter begins the discussion by sharing her story about her food allergies and how many people with these allergies are unincluded. 

“It only takes a moment to ask to help someone feel like they belong and are thought of,” Pointdexter says. “Have empathy even if it doesn’t impact you directly.”

Afterward, Elizabeth Rodriguez then shares her experience of cyberbullying on the True Colors club, because of its recent online activity. 

“I just hope everyone here knows today that your actions and your words have meaning and they can harm people, they’re not empty statements or actions without consequences,” Rodriguez says. 

Rodriguez feels the students that she’s surrounded by leave hurtful comments because they don’t have enough understanding of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

“People really don’t know a single thing about us other than we’re a part of a different community than them, and they choose to hate because they don’t understand,” Rodriguez says.

Another speaker at Amplify, Laniyah Robinson, shares her experience with the racism she’s faced in the past, and how she’s slowly learned self-love through others’ hate. 

“I wouldn’t trade my race or my gender for anything, and I’m proud of who I am and proud of what makes me who I am,” Laniyah Robinson says. 

Jewish student Isabelle Gershon and Muslim student Rosie Abdelmaguid discuss how teachers and students are educated enough about the cultures of the students at OHS. 

“I love being Jewish, I know so many other people love being Muslim, they love being black, but then when we constantly deal with this hateful rhetoric we start to associate those identities with sadness, with fear, and it’s heartbreaking that something that brings us so much joy, something we should be proud of, has to be something we’re ashamed of,” Gershon says. 

“We should all be proud of our differences and we should never be ashamed to talk about it because that’s what makes us unique,” Gershon says. 

Many students at OHS feel like they have to teach their classmates about their own culture instead of learning from their teachers. 

“I feel like just know your students and be able up to them instead of waiting for them to come up to you,” Rosie Abdelmaguid.

Rosie and Laila share a poem about Ramadan and Islam to help create awareness. Because of the mistreatment Muslim students face, they hope to make a change. 

“We can create awareness by Muslim students portraying Islam around our school in an effective manner.”

Attendees suggest changes like school announcements about Islamic holidays or including books with Muslim positivity in the OHS library to help lower racism in the school.

The Coalition honored a few teachers before they dismissed its viewers and hopes to spread positivity about diversity and let all student voices be heard. 

“I want to be a part of groups like this so we can improve the quality of life for students, from especially marginalized identities, and educate people of what students do face every day at school,” Amaya Houston says.

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