Ottoson Inside Out Project: Perspectives of a Middle School Survivor

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Being a senior at Arlington High School, middle school was only 4 years ago for me, and it seems like just yesterday I roamed the halls of Ottoson. There is an expression that “kids are cruel”, and in my years at Ottoson I found this to be immensely true. Not a day passed when someone didn’t cry in the bathrooms or get called to the principal’s office, and horrible things were written on the stall walls.

“Being a senior at Arlington High School, middle school was only 4 years ago for me, and it seems like just yesterday I roamed the halls of Ottoson.”

Being in a big public school by nature can make a 12 year old feel a lack of individuality and give one the overwhelming need to conform. The general mantra in these years was “fit in to survive”. Just act like everyone else for 3 years and then things will get better in high school. Most kids fell into one of three categories; bully, victim, or everyday bystander. In middle school I felt I needed to hide what made me different, and being straight and white I did this with ease, but it wasn’t so easy for other kids. Most of this discrimination happened beneath the radar of the administration, and when it was brought to their attention it was dealt with simply by a call to the office and a ring home to the parents. The larger problem however was never spoken of or even addressed. For me, this made my time at Ottoson a dark stain on my memory, and when I walk by the ominous building, I turn away.

“The general mantra in these years was “fit in to survive.”

Last Sunday, October 22, however, I did not turn away, but instead stared in awe. I was told that the Ottoson would be participating in the Inside Out project in reaction to recent incidents of racism in the school but I had no idea how actually seeing it would effect me. On the side of this bland building I had grown to dread, was plastered dozens of smiling faces of current middle schoolers. It was truly a beautiful work of art and what it represented was even more beautiful to me. The school had noticed the problems within the student body and acted out to address them. What the students and teachers had created together was amazing and in the moment really struck me. The walls of the school itself that to me always symbolized oppression were celebrating students and their differences and it was magnificent. I know something as little as this will not fix all of the problems of racism or discrimination immediately but it is most definitely a step in the right direction.

“The walls of the school itself that to me always symbolized oppression were celebrating students and their differences and it was magnificent”.

Not only does it celebrate diversity but it also shows the students that the school cares and wants every voice to be heard, recognized and valued. Seeing this powerful project taken on by the Ottoson not only made me proud to have attended but also gave me immense hope for the future generations to pass through its’ doors.

Blog post by Sorrel Galantowicz

Sorrel Galantowicz is an intern for the Arlington Diversity Task Group as well as a student at Arlington High School.

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