VACHI IN THE NEWS:
New High School Club Seeks to Eliminate Hate
Sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never hurt you. Right? While children have sung that song since before any of us can remember, a new club at Coronado High School in Coronado, California knows that words can hurt. Voices Against Cruelty, Hatred and Intolerance, known as VACHI for short, seeks to educate students, teachers and parents about the harm caused from hate motivated behavior, including bullying, harassment and name-calling. VACHI hopes that with education they can eliminate hate motivated behavior on campus.
VACHI, the brain-child of junior, Joey Langerman, who was looking for a novel idea for his Boy Scout Eagle Project, is believed to be the first club of its kind. But that fact doesn’t stop Joey from thinking globally. One of the first things Joey did was work with local web designer who donated his time for the project. VACHI now has a web presence that will help to bring the "No Hate" message to other schools around the country.
Joey was motivated when he read about several students who committed suicide after being bullied at their schools. Despite reporting those incidents to school officials, nothing changed and finally several teens killed themselves. While none of those suicides occurred in Coronado, Joey knew that kids at his school were contributing to the spread of hate. He hopes VACHI will spark a change. VACHI created, funded and placed "No Hate Zone" signs (available on their website) in each classroom and teachers made sure that students were aware of the new philosophy. VACHI’s message is clear: every student is entitled to a physically and emotionally safe place to go to school.
VACHI;'s hope is to empower students to stop spreading hate and to stand up against hate when it is witnessed. In his research to start this club, Joey learned that most incidents of bullying and harassment are unreported because the victims are afraid and feel powerless. Joey thought that if it became "cooler" to speak out against hate than to side with the abuser, maybe the incidence of hate would be reduced. The message to students is simple: Think before YOU speak and if you see someone bullying, harassing or name calling another student, stand up and say, "Hey, that's not cool". If everyone then sided with the victim, the abuser would lose his power. "Hate behavior is about power. If we take the power away, we can stop the hate," says Joey.
VACHI recognizes that hate behavior is learned. VACHI encourages parents to model tolerance and help teach the "No Hate" message. VACHI is hoping other high school students will start chapters in their school (materials available on their website). The club's email is email@example.com. VACHI also has a Facebook page. Joey asks that everyone become a VACHI FAN on Facebook. Joey's final words ring strong: "Together, we can start a movement."
January 27, 2010 – Coronado Eagle and Journal (No Name Calling Week Announcement)
May 6, 2010 – 10News.com article about VACHI’s survey at local highschool. VACHI founder interviewed.
January 10, 2011 – SignonSandiego.com wrote about a local production of The Laramie Project. VACHI helped promote the show and its founder was interviewed.
BY ASHLY MCGLONE
MONDAY, JANUARY 10, 2011 AT 1 P.M.
Led by director Kim Strassburger, students rehearse for The Laramie Project in Coronado High School's performing arts center.
CORONADO — Nearly 300 students and community members eagerly filed into the Coronado High School performing arts center to see a play about the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.
The Laramie Project never depicts the victim, nor his death, but instead tells the tale of Laramie, Wyo., a town reluctantly thrust into the national spotlight in the wake of a vicious hate crime.
Compiled by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York, the dialogue is straight from the mouths of those who lived it. Students from Coronado School of the Arts, Coronado High School, Coronado Middle School and the continuing education school Palm Academy held a captive, and at times teary audience, for the entire 2 hour and 20 minute production on Friday’s opening night.
Scenes depicted the tearful outrage, disbelief, shame and unity of the town, sprinkled with comedic relief.
For critics who feel the content isn’t age-appropriate, said Will Funk, who plays multiple roles: "If we aren’t the age demographic who is?" "I would say high school and college students are at the peak of their insecurity and uncertainty, so if we aren’t the kids that are supposed to see this and stop our actions, who are? Once you’re older, you’re already firm in your beliefs, but we are the generation who can change," he said.
But some Coronado parents kept their children from seeing the play, according to 17-year-old actress Olivia O’Connor. She said she struggled to get some of her friends to accept the fact that she was in the play and she knew one of her friends was sneaking in to see it against their parent’s wishes.
"Saying that the content is inappropriate is almost a little ignorant because this content is out in the world and we see it on the news so much," Olivia said. "Personally this is a play that I think everybody should see at some point, not because of the gay issue or anything like that, but just because it’s about who we are as people, and for me it was very personal because we are all from this small little town and it made me think this could be Coronado. I mean, how would we react as people?"
The opening scene included a description of the Wyoming town.
"If you asked me before, I would have told you Laramie is a beautiful town... now after Matthew, we are a town defined by an accident or crime. We’ve become Waco or Jasper," says an actor playing a local resident.
Shepard’s final hours are recounted by the bartender at the Fireside Bar, the last place he was seen, and by one of the murderers, Aaron McKinney, as well as the local doctor who unknowingly treated both the attacker and the victim minutes apart. Attacker Russell Henderson was also depicted. Will Funk, who portrays the victim’s father, Dennis Shepard, and Westboro Baptist Church pastor and protester Fred Phelps, among other characters, hopes the play will prevent future tragedies.
"For every audience who sees this, there is one less Aaron McKinney; there is one less Russell Henderson who refused to act against the actions that he knew in his heart were wrong. There is one less Conrad Miller and one less Fred Phelps hopefully," Will said. Former Coronado High theater teacher Betty Anderson paid a return visit to the school to see the performance. "I think it is earth-shattering and groundbreaking not only for Coronado High but for all of Coronado," Anderson said. "They are getting caught up with the times." Senior Joe Langerman, who is president of Coronado High’s Voices Against Cruelty, Hatred and Intolerance club, helped promote the play. "This has been such a good thing to bring Coronado. Coronado really needs this and I think it starts the new chapter of increasing the level of tolerance toward people," he said. Joe also joined the chorus of people praising the administration, Principal Karl Mueller and the Board of Education for their support. The club is selling ‘Hate Hurts’ wristbands at all productions; proceeds will go toward the purchase of anti-bullying books for Coronado elementary schools. Assistant Principal of Coronado High Jennifer Moore said, "We have a lot of things happening right now in our campus and in our community around bullying and harassment, a lot of student-centered discussions and dialogue and this is a really wonderful centerpiece for that." "I think that our community and people in general are ready to learn more about harassment and discrimination and bullying," Moore said. "Bullying can take so many different forms and everyone can really relate I think."
Remaining showtimes are set for Jan. 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. The subject matter is not appropriate for children under 13.
January 12, 2011 – KUSI wrote about the anti-gay picket announced by the Westboro Baptist Church against a local high school production of The Laramie Project – VACHI founder interviewed.
January 15, 2011 - Coronado Patch Reports on Study Rally Against Hate Speech (VACHI founder pictured with VACHI "no hate" rally posters)
January 19, 2011 - Coronado Eagle and Journal - Letter to the Editor titled "Where Does Hate Come From" written by Vachi's founder.