The Humans behind HOSH: Facebook page shares student stories

November 29, 2017 — by Howard Tang

On the ordinary night of Aug. 15, as she was preparing for the start of school, freshman Emily Choi received a message from a member of an organization called HOSH, asking to meet her at the cluster of trees in the quad.

Following her curiosity, she walked to the designated meeting place, surprised to find a photographer waiting. After taking a picture and answering questions about her leadership experience, Choi later saw her photo and story published on the Humans of Saratoga High Facebook page.

Humans of Saratoga High (HOSH), which was started in 2013 by Class of 2016 alumnus Luke Salin and several others and has gained 2,365 followers since then, is currently run by four upperclassmen. Following tradition, the four try to operate the site anonymously and agreed to be interviewed only on the condition that their names not be used.

The group was inspired by Humans of New York (HONY), a photography project designed by Brandon Stanton to create “an exhaustive catalogue of New York's inhabitants.” Though he started only with photographs, Stanton soon began to include quotes or short stories about each featured person. Similarly, the photographers for HOSH take pictures of different students, posting them on the page, also with an quotes or short stories.

Due to the increasing popularity of HONY at the time, assistant principal Kerry Mohnike, the ASB adviser at the time, and a couple of ASB seniors decided to start a page to catalogue students of Saratoga High.

“We all agreed that it would be a really interactive, positive and supportive way for students, teachers and the SHS community in general to get to know each other a little better,” Salin said, “and to put stories to the faces they see in the halls every day.”

According to a senior boy who is part of HOSH, the purpose of the group is not about being exclusive — as some have claimed it to be because many recently featured students are part of the Leadership class — but to delve deeper into the lives of the student body and find interesting moments of people on campus.

HOSH photographers try to post weekly, but due to their busy schedules, the four took a break from posting since the start of the school year. The posts resumed starting the week of Oct. 23.

Drawing further inspiration from HONY, HOSH has tried to group together stories that are related to each other, forming a series. For example, the HOSH photographers decided to profile four freshmen at the beginning of the school year, resulting in the “Freshman series,” of which Choi’s story is the first.

Another senior who is participating in HOSH this year said she had heard that the team was looking for non-graduating students to join. Consequently, she asked one of the members if she could apply.

“They mainly base it on how well you can communicate with the student body and make them comfortable enough to open up about their experiences,” the senior said. “Photography skills are also important, but you definitely don’t have to be a professional.”

After being incorporated into the team, photographers start trying to find people to interview, organizing ideas of future features with the group over Facebook. As soon as the photographers discover an interesting story or experience, they will seek the individual out and ask if he or she could be interviewed.

While having to organize meetings with students that they might not know can be difficult, the photographers do believe that running the HOSH page is not as complicated as many might think.

In addition, many students have felt that HOSH has helped them get to know other students better.

“When people share their stories, you find out that we’re actually a lot more similar to each other than we are different,” senior Chengzi Guo said. “We all have felt the same feelings even if it’s from different experiences or events.”


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