Seniors spread the word

Aloera Ostermann, Staff Writer

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Everyone knows that words can hurt. They can be mean, offensive, degrading and derogatory. Words are important and powerful and often misused.

Seniors Cody Ballou and Josie Hilgers have been paying specific attention to one word and how it affects people in a negative way. They hope to inform students at Manhattan High School how offensive using the the word “retarded”, or as they refer to it, the “r-word”, can be.

“Just hearing how it was being used inappropriately made the both of us uncomfortable,” Ballou said.

Aside from the word being used in the wrong way, the girls also felt as though this hit close to home because it was affecting some of their best friends from their Interpersonal Skills class.

“We are both very passionate about this campaign so when it was presented to us as an idea in IPS we were happy to take the leads,” Hilgers said.

Kids in the class were being referred to as “retarded” just because their minds or bodies work a little differently than the rest of the school. Making it that more apparent that something needed to be done to change this way of thinking.

With the help of their IPS class, Ballou and Hilgers had a table during lunch last Wednesday, the international date for the annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. At the table, students could pledge not to use the r-word by going online to www.r-word.org to find out how to sign their own pledge and find out more about why refraining from using the r-word is necessary.

Although Ballou and Hilgers knew the message they wanted to get out, they had to come up with their own ideas on how to get it out there. They had less than a week to pull everything together, but took time out of their lives to make it work.

“The thing that took the longest was Josie’s huge posters and my mom and I designing the cards,” Ballou said.

They showed up with the posters behind and on their table along with cards for students to take and share with other students.

When creating everything they knew they wanted to use the slogan from the website so Hilgers began to make a poster with the slogan on it to hang behind their table. Ballou decided she would be in charge of the cards they would hand out to the students. The cards would include the slogan and the website so that students could go on and take the pledge whenever they would like. Everything was centered around refraining from using the “r-word” and the posters and cards helped make that known.

Throughout the lunch, many students approached the table and some of their IPS friends even sat with them to show their support.

“So many people were interested in what was going on,” Ballou said. “There were always people at the table and overall there were real positive vibes from everyone.”

They spent both lunches just getting the message out to make MHS more aware of this problem and what they can do to stop it. There are still cards that can be passed out and the main posters remain in the lunchroom nearly a week later to remind students of what went on last week.

“[The best part was] feeling a sense of hope that we really made a difference,” Ballou said, “not only the kids in IPS but in the students around the school.”

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Seniors spread the word