Outreach commission preps virtual Speak Up For Change event

January 17, 2021 — by Avani Kongetira, Lihi Shoshani and Kavita Sundaram
spfc banner

A banner in the gym from the Speak Up For Change event in 2019.

Dean Whellams from the 2018 Breaking Down the Walls program, along with five student and staff speakers, will be featured in the SUFC theme “Unity in Community; Hand in Hand”

Don’t be afraid to seek help within Saratoga’s caring community.

That will be a central message conveyed in this year’s edition of Speak Up For Change, which begins Jan. 18 and will be held virtually during the evenings. The outreach commission picked the theme of “Unity in Community; Hand in Hand” this year.

The event will feature three student and two staff speakers, as well as a keynote speaker named Dean Whellams, who led Breaking Down the Walls, a program designed for students and staff to build deeper connections on campus in 2018.

Because Breaking Down the Walls received such positive reviews, outreach invited Whellams to Speak Up for Change.  

At 7 p.m. on Jan. 19, Whellams will hold a webinar open to parents in order to help parents support students. The next night, the student and staff speakers, Samika Agarwal, Josephine Chou, Wilson Fung, Mike Davies and Katherine Nakamatsu, will share their experiences with asking for help through the SHSTV YouTube channel. The following evening, Whellams will host another segment, “Reaching Out: Why and How,” a webinar that will be open to all students. The webinars are restricted to 500 participants, and will be posted on YouTube as well.

Whellams plans to discuss the importance of being able to ask for help, the science behind it, the reasons people dislike asking for help and how asking for help can create a deeper connection with others.

Throughout the week, clubs will host activities relating to strengthening relationships and reaching out for support. The Sources of Strength Club will discuss anxiety and depression, while the Crafting Club plans to make friendship bracelets.

Even though the event is online during this pandemic year, senior outreach head commissioner Shawn Hulme said he is optimistic about the potential impact of the online assemblies, since students can go back and rewatch parts they missed. 

The commission will also hold a raffle for five Amazon gift cards at the end of the Zoom webinar as an incentive for students to attend, but that’s not the only reason.

“We hope that students will recognize that asking for help is not always as frightening as it seems, and we hope they will feel comfortable reaching out to family, friends or anyone else for the help that they need,” Hulme said.

In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, Hulme is confident Speak Up For Change can make a difference. 

“My favorite aspect of hosting SUFC was knowing that at least one life was hopefully changed for the better through my efforts,” he said.