Speak Up For Change informs students about consent, making tough decisions

January 29, 2020 — by Apurva Chakravarthy and Esther Luan

From Jan. 21-24, the school held its annual Speak Up For Change week, this year themed “Know No.” The event was scaled down but impactful for some students.

“You’re hearing and seeing people that you normally interact with share their stories, and it just helps to reinforce that idea that everybody has things they’re going through,” said senior Riya Kalra. “We’re all more alike than you’d think.”

Activities included an all-school assembly on Tuesday, activities in the quad on Wednesday, a consent panel hosted by GirlUp on Thursday and a sandwich packaging drive, an alumni panel and peaceful painting on Friday.

Among the speakers at the assembly was senior Ritika Kuppam, who spoke about the obstacles she faced while searching for her true passion.

“You don’t have to know what you want to do with your life in high school, you’ve got so much of your life ahead of you,” Kuppam told the assembled students. ”Say no to the hate and discouragement, and learn to be nicer to yourself.”

Outreach commission head Sally Kim said that the group had brainstormed topics for this year’s theme, and consent and sexual assault seemed a timely, important choice.

ASB vice president Jolyn Tran described herself as a strong proponent of the theme. She has closely followed the case Chanel Miller, a Stanford student who was sexually assaulted in 2015 by a fellow student named Brock Turner. She recently published a book about the trauma she experienced. “It just made me think about what it means to say ‘no,’” said Tran. “Because she was intoxicated and unconscious, the rapist interpreted it as a ‘yes, I consent to having sex with you’ and that really baffled me.”

Tran also led a panel discussion on the topic of consent, held by the GirlUp club, and said that everyone was open-minded and respectful. “Our goal was to spread the message of boundaries and consent and I think a lot of people are now more educated than they were before, so I’m pretty happy with how it went,” Tran said.

Other SUFC activities included the Leo Club packaging drive. During the drive, the club, along with many other student volunteers, put together approximately 200 sandwich care packages, which were donated to local nonprofit Loaves and Fishes. 

Speakers at the assembly were chosen among volunteers. The three student speakers were Kuppam, senior Ryan Le, who spoke about the challenges of his painful medical condition, and Arya Mididaddi, who recounted the struggles she experienced growing up deaf. The teacher speakers, Spanish teacher Bret Yeilding, Digital Arts and MAP teacher Alex Hemmerich and AP U.S. Government teacher Hana Chen spoke about their experiences in high school, college and graduate school, encouraging students to find their own path.

This year, the commission decided to remove the Cultural Fair that had occurred in recent years as they wanted to focus on activities that were centered around the theme. “Compared to last year, we wanted to make things more simple and meaningful during the activities since there were so many activities last year with no relevance to the theme,” Kim said.

One of the biggest challenges that the outreach commission faced while organizing the event was that three of the commissioners, junior Shawn Hulme and sophomores Cheryl Wu and Karina Bik, are new, and needed to learn what was required to organize the week’s activities. One of last year’s major event planners, Surbhi Bhat, was out of town on a trip, making it even more challenging to coordinate everything.

To work through this issue, each commissioner was delegated specific tasks, and the commission had much help from assistant principal and Leadership teacher Matt Torrens and the Leadership class.

Another challenge the outreach commission faced was finding speakers for such a sensitive topic, commissioner Cheryl Wu said. The theme was a lot more personal than last year’s themes, so it was harder to find students and teachers. In fact, one of the students who had already agreed to speak at the event dropped out just a week before the event began.

Kim said that one aspect of the assembly that could have been improved was the icebreaker survey at the beginning, as the commissioners were relatively unprepared for the chaos of an entire school in one enclosed space. Overall, though, Kim said that the event went smoothly. 

“If anything, we want students to know that they need to know how to say no, and to understand when someone is saying no,” Kim said. “It’s what we wanted to achieve with this week, and that’s most important.”

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