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Group of Dolores students aims to improve school culture

Six Dolores High School students are tackling negativity in their school
Dolores high-schoolers Tel Hamilton, Addie Jones, Courtney Corbitt, Forest Pejsa, Abby Jones and Cameron Schafer have formed a student-led organization called “I was now I am” to combat negative aspects of their school.

When a group of Dolores high-schoolers saw major changes in their school culture, they decided to do something.

Shortly after the shooting at Parkland, Florida, and a fight video from Dolores High School went viral, six Dolores High School students formed the “I was now I am” movement.

“We have met with kids, we have met with adults, and all of them say the same thing: that Dolores needs a change,” senior Tel Hamilton said. “We are just a bunch of small-town kids making that change.”

The group consists of two seniors and four juniors. Since their inception, the group has met with different age groups in an effort to change the culture of the school.

Junior Cameron Schafer said that her discussion with a group of seventh-graders brought to light just what an impact they can have on the younger grades.

“This is something that is going to take a long time. It is not like a fast process, but I think we have another year to make the change for the upcoming sophomores,” Schafer said. “I really hope there are kids in there that have the same passion as us to bring this kind of thing to our school.”

Junior Abby Jones said that by getting the younger students’ opinion and perspective on problems in their school, she has a better understanding of how to help change the culture. “I think by just igniting this little fire right here, we can start bigger flames and that can carry on throughout the younger grades,” she said.

Jones also remarked that the negative atmosphere they feel was not present when she started attending Dolores Schools in the sixth grade.

“The culture here was completely different. Everybody was friends with each other, and I didn’t see anything negative. And I want the school to be back at that point again,” Jones said. “I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe or unwelcome here.”

The group acknowledges not everyone will get along. However, they want to start an open dialogue and create a culture of respect.

“It is just not possible – people are going to clash,” senior Courtney Corbitt said. “If we can form this sense of respect that we have just as humans with one another, then that can change everything in our school, that can make things positive.”

An advantage the group feels it has over similar efforts is that they are students too. They hope that their message might sink in with students who hear it from peers instead of adults.

Junior Addie Jones said that by opening up to the younger students about their own experiences during high school, they might connect on a deeper level than adults could.

The group is passionate about the change they want to see in their school.

“We are not a bad school at all; we are a great school. I love our school,” Schafer said. “We’ve just always relied on adults to do this stuff, and then we kind of ‘diss’ what they do so, we are trying to be the kids that are doing something.”

The first action of the “I was now I am” movement is to hold an assembly the week of March 12, before spring break, that highlights the positives in the community. They asked other students to give them vision statements on notecards and photos highlighting the positives of their community for a presentation.

“Dolores is still full of kids that are passionate individuals who will succeed in life,” Hamilton said. “Every kid in the school has the potential to do something really great.”

Corbitt wants the group’s efforts to be mirrored by all of Dolores.

“We want Dolores to be a positive place, and we want other schools to look at us and think that is a place that I want to be,” Corbitt said. “We are focusing on this in our school, and we are implementing it in our school, but these ideas and these mindsets, we hope will be implemented in the community as a whole in every one of the members to show that we need to create positivity in Dolores.”

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