The Public Opening
On Tuesday, January 17 at 7:00 pm, we opened #WhyYouMatter to both students and the public at the same time. We had planned on opening to the students during the day, but Michigan weather sent us an ice storm that closed school. It had melted by the evening so the opening was on. We were so so surprised and pleased by the turn out...
Over 300 community members came to view the project.
We began the night gathered in the High School Commons. We addressed the community with a few short speeches. We explained how the idea came about, why we felt we needed to do this, how it has impacted the school so far, and then gave thank you's to all the people who helped make it happen. Our show choir, Company C preformed a tribute song and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. It gave everyone a moment to reflect on all that we had been through, together, as a community. After the song, people moved into the hallways to look at the photos.
During the opening, we had two huge walls of black paper and chalk markers. One said "Why I Matter" This let the community write their own statements. The other said "Why You Matter " and people were able to write short notes telling someone else why they matter. The papers were full by the end of the night with kind and meaningful messages. We also had a snapchat filter "geotag" so that people could take their own #WhyYouMatter photos. This was an "age appropriate" media for our teenagers and also a fun activity during the opening.
We set up the photos as a gallery walk so at the end people would spill out into the commons again. At the end of the walk, before made their way back to the Commons, the last hallway had a table with slips of paper, tape, and markers. We asked them to tell us how they felt after viewing the photos and tape up their responses anywhere in the hallway.
The whole evening was beautiful and powerful. This was a grieving community that came together to heal. They came to show the high school students that they care. That they are not alone. That they matter.