PHS Student Council tackles discrimination

Posted 9/29/21

Inclusivity mural meant to inspire PRESCOTT – The Prescott High School Student Council doesn’t let grass grow under its feet. When they see a problem, they tackle it. Student Council …

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PHS Student Council tackles discrimination


Inclusivity mural meant to inspire

PRESCOTT – The Prescott High School Student Council doesn’t let grass grow under its feet. When they see a problem, they tackle it.

Student Council representatives asked the school board Tuesday, Sept. 21 for permission to install a permanent mural on a blank wall directly across from the PHS library.

“We first created this mural in an effort to fight discrimination within these walls,” said student school board liaison Shay Stenroos. “It was identified after a school-wide survey with 296 responses indicated that 44 percent of our students have witnessed discrimination at PHS.”

Fourteen percent of students also said they’ve experienced discrimination at PHS. Stenroos said these “alarming statistics” inspired introducing a diversity pledge. The pledge asks students to commit to creating a safer and more welcoming environment for all people, by signing the pledge.

The Student Council brainstormed at several meetings to create an impactful and inspiring mural design. They ultimately settled on depicting a PHS student, their heritage and external influences, brought to life by PHS Class of 2021 graduate Maddie Tibayan.

Tibayan and Bella Lenz, another 2021 graduate, said the mural’s goal is to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of influential figures who come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life.

“Their achievements in their respective areas were forged from perseverance, determination and their goal of creating a better world,” they said. “We hope to inspire students to do the same while promoting inclusivity and acceptance.”

The mural includes figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and other significant symbols such as the Pride and mental health awareness flags.

“Standing next to these advocates of change is a Prescott student looking into a mirror towards his own immigrant history, highlighting the similarities which exist between us despite our differences,” the description reads. “Unified under one community for past, present and future students, promoting Prescott’s initiative to create future successful leaders like those depicted here.”

Student Council President Anna Thomley said safety and acceptance are priorities for students.

“This mural captures our vision of unity that Prescott students are promised when they walk through our halls,” she said. “Everyone undeniably deserves respect within the walls of our school and this mural preaches the importance of diversity and inclusivity for all races, ethnicities, genders, hardships and other differences students possess.”

Education can only take place when students feel safe, she added.

First-year Student Council member Wesley Dobbs talked practical matters. The mural would be adhesive-backed vinyl, which would bond with the concrete to become part of the wall. It would be durable and permanent for generations to come, measuring 22by-9 feet.

“It’s not a so-called ‘quick fix,’” Dobbs said.

Student Council Vice President Mallory Boles explained the research behind the mural. “Last year, the Student Council wanted to create an image which would inspire students to strive to be themselves and push against limits,” she said.

Lenz and Tibayan carefully chose figures who struggled but found hope and perseverance. Students provided input during the creation process. Students could view the final proposed mural during PHS’ back to school night.

Student Council advisor Jeff Ryan and Principal Josh Fiege support the proposed mural, which took two years to plan and vet. Fiege said it embodies the district’s “5 Rs,” which are respect, relationships, relevance, responsibility and rigor.

School board members embraced the mural wholeheartedly with a few suggestions, such as adding a plaque or description next to the mural. Board member Tanya Holub admitted she didn’t know who everyone on the mural is, and others might not either.

“You guys are light years ahead of where we were,” School Board President and PHS alumni Mike Matzek said of his school years.

The board will vote on the mural at the October board meeting. Its estimated cost is $2,975, which is without the plaque.

“I don’t know that I’ve worked with a more proactive student council in terms of just working on a lot of big issues simultaneously and then carrying out some of the culture and climate things that they’re doing,” Fiege said.