What's News In Forest Grove?

Project Unify: Marked

May 1, 2013

Lauren here! I went to an amazing play on Saturday night and I really wanted to share some of the things that I learned during the production. Going into the night, I knew the play was about bullying and I had heard about all of the hype it had received last year. The cast even received a video from Pink! thanking Project Unify for all of their efforts! I mean.. PINK! So I had a feeling it was going to be good. I even somehow managed to drag my little brother, Douglas, with me! And his attention span is only ever long enough for a round of FIFA, trust me.

Project Unify is a group sponsored by the Special Olympics. Currently, the program in Forest Grove is the only solid program in the entire United States. Their goal is to create change and awareness by coming together as a united, diverse student body and speaking up about tough issues. This year, the play was focuses on bullying and the labels that society puts on individuals. According to a poll of all students and teachers taken last year, 32% of students and 64% of teachers have been bullied at some point in their lives, while 39% of students and 28% of teachers have been bullied AND been the bully. These stats and the play spawned from them really bring awareness to something that seems to be nothing more than a rite of passage and part of growing up.

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The play started with some amazing recorded, personal stories as told by students and teachers at Fores Grove High School. As an individual who had been intensely bullied in grade school, I could relate to the pain they had felt and that dark place they had been in. The emotion in their voices and the depth of their stories gave me chills. It was such a perfect way to start the journey that Project Unify took us on that night.

Within the course of the next 40 minutes, six scene were played out. In each scenario there would be one student who was singled out for doing something or being something that wasn’t socially acceptable. The students who played the roles of bullies would taunt them, get in their faces, make them feel small, and crush their spirits. Each victim was given a sign to wear around their neck with a label on it: Dork, Nerd, Fat, Freak, Loser, and Fag. At the end of each scene, an oversized gray sweater would be draped over their shoulders with the hood up over their faces – symbolizing the despair and confinement that the student felt while being bullied. On a large screen at the back of the stage, each label was portrayed while the rest of the scenes played out. The mix of the emphasized bullying and symbolism created an unforgettable experience for all members in the audience.

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And don’t worry – there was a happy ending! Everyone came together to put an end to the bullying, and then there was dancing. Because why not, right?

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At the end of the performance, there was a question and answer session where the cast members shared person stories and advice. A boy in special ed that I went to school with, Jeremy, shared an especially reassuring and sweet moment with his best friend – complete with a fist bump and shouting “That’s what friends are for! Stopping bullying!” It just summed up the entire night perfectly.

Honestly, the next time they do this performance (most likely next year), you HAVE to go. It’s an incredible and eye-opening look at bullying and the ‘rite of passage’ that needs to be put to a stop. I am so proud of all of the amazing people who are a part of Project Unify, and that my former high school has the ability to break ground in an exciting new cause. Congratulations!

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