Lansing at Large: Postcards from the student body

Lansing students solicit anonymous messages to build empathy

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“I’m not as smart as people think I am.”


“I don’t want to go to Lansing next year. I’ve been counting the days [until] I turn 18 so I can be on my own.”


The anonymous postcards from the Lansing High School student body hang in the second-floor space above the entrance to the school, put there by members of Isis Ivery’s “Race, Class, and Gender” class as the centerpiece of “Unspoken,” the class’ final project for 2018. It follows on a similar class project from five years ago.


The students adapted the popular “Post-Secret” website and books’ practice of sharing anonymous secrets to the high school environment. They described their project to social studies classes throughout the school on Nov. 30 and in the morning announcements the following week. Flyers were put up in the hallways.


“An average girl.”


“I only try to be great but some days I’m lazy.”


Locked drop boxes were set up in the hallways. Postcards were put in the cafeteria. Kids wrote down their secrets. The class began retrieving them on Dec. 7, removed the cards with swear words, names or identifying information, or hate speech, and then, on Dec. 12, began hanging them from the ceiling on red strings. They will come down on Dec. 21.


“My therapist told me she couldn’t see me anymore.”


“I feel like I am beautiful but then no one tells me I am so I don’t feel beautiful.”


The cards twirl slowly in the sunlight. Students stop on their way to class to pick a secret from the air. Some of them are very hard to read.


“My father molests me.”


“Heroin makes me happy.”


Bailey Osborne, Ashley Stanbro, Quinn Page, Sierra Stallmann, and Bella Robson are seniors at Lansing and members of the class.


“Ms. Ivery proposed a bunch of different projects and this one stood out,” Stanbro said. “The goal was a little more empathy: ‘Hey, you’re not alone.’ To try to help people.”


“We get new secrets every day,” Osborne said. “We had 73 the first day. That’s about 25 percent of the school. We have more than 100 now.”


“Some seemed inappropriate. We reviewed them all. We didn’t censor. There are some that are not so nice but we still put them up.”


“I wasn’t expecting how powerful the secrets are. The things people write have such an impact on me,” she said. “They make you take a step back.”


“It’s terrible, it’s so hard. It’s in your face. There are so many problems that are not talked about.”


“I think ‘these are people I know,’” Osborne said. “I wish I knew who they were.”


“There is an air of suspicion around whether the secrets are real or are fake,” Stanbro said. “But either way it may be good. We might realize that those things do happen in the school and it’s good to recognize that.”


“It hurts a little bit to see some of the things,” she continued. “Someone has depression and you do not know how to help, to comfort that person. It’s a heartbreaker.”


“I knew some things happen but this changed my perspective. It’s not just a rumor – this is their truth.”


“I saw the heroin card and I said ‘no way,’” Page said. “But just the fact that someone wrote that means that it could be true. It might help someone out who does have that problem.”


“Kids are asking who a person was – who wrote different secrets – we don’t know – no one is supposed to know – that’s not the point of the project.”


“Someone wrote ‘there are only two genders,”’ Robson said. “Someone said that as a secret. There are kids transitioning in our school and that worries me that they might be at risk.”


“Someone else wrote ‘I feel that people will only care about me if I am liberal,’” Robson said. “That was striking. I thought we had a good mix here.”


“I was also struck by the political comment,” Stallmann said. “I thought we did a good job discussing politics with no bias from the teachers. If people don’t feel comfortable to do so, it made me realize that I don’t hear everyone’s side.”


“I see the same kids coming back to see if there are new ones,” Stallmann said. “Sometimes they are laughing at them, but I know that they also see the deeper ones.”


One card reads “who knew Lansing kids had so many problems?”

Library Hosts Writers’ Group
The Lansing Community Library will host “Writing Group 101” with Claire Perez on Saturdays, Jan. 5, 12, 19, and 26 from 10 a.m. to noon.


The program aims to foster a “positive, encouraging writing group that will help you find your voice and get your stories and ideas down on paper.” It is part of the Ben Muggeo Writing Series.


Each session will focus on a specific writing technique reinforced with a mini-exercise and optional take-home assignment.


Pre-registration is required as class size is limited. Call the library at 533 4939 for more information.

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