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York Tech: 'We've come a long way'

Junior Gonzalez
  • Students packed the York Tech gymnasium to celebrate diversity.
  • Students and administrators spoke of the importance of the event and moving forward.
  • The assembly comes six months after a race incident caused the school to hire an equity coordinator.

Students at York County School of Technology gathered in the gymnasium Thursday morning for the school's first Diversity Showcase assembly.

Students dance to B-Tropical during a York County School of Technology assembly celebrating Diversity Week, Thursday, May 4, 2017. The assembly included testimonials from students about their experiences as immigrants, attempting suicide, and race issues.  John A. Pavoncello photo

The student organizers behind the event, the Spartan Spirit team, along with equity coordinator Carla Christopher brought students from a range of backgrounds to speak about their experiences on issues of race, immigration and suicide.

The ceremony came nearly six months after a video of several York Tech students walking down the hallway shouting “white power” while holding up a Trump-Pence campaign yard sign was posted the day after the presidential election.

The video went viral and led to the appointment of Christopher as the school’s first equity coordinator.

Stories: “When people think of illegal immigrants, they think of drug dealers coming from Mexico or terrorists coming from Syria,” sophomore  Amanda Araque said.

However, she urged her classmates to imagine being a young child escaping a violent home in Colombia and moving to the U.S. at age 13.

“You work wherever you can,” Amanda said, including cleaning bathrooms and offices.

"Mind you, this is all by night,” she said. "By day, you go to school.”

Along with being in the country illegally as an adolescent, the immigrant would suffer cold winter months living in a car and try to muster up the funds for a green card, which costs more than $1,000.

Amanda later revealed this imaginary scenario was the real life story of her father.

Amanda began to cite facts about undocumented immigrants, including their inability to access state assistance programs as well as their contributions as unrepresented taxpayers.

"The people who bash immigrants don’t even know the facts,” she told students in the packed gymnasium, “and these are the facts.”

Another sophomore, Gage Denny, had a much different story to tell students.

“I’m here to talk about a subject that is very touchy to some of you,” he said. “I’m here to talk about suicide.”

Gage went as far as asking his peers how many of them contemplated suicide, and about five students raised their hands.

“At least we’ve got some people being honest,” he said.

York County School of Technology junior Gage Denny tells the story of his attempted suicide during an assembly celebrating Diversity Week, Thursday, May 4, 2017. While difficult to share his story, Denny said that if it saves "just one classmate" it was worth it.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Gage said his first years of high school were dogged by a feeling of isolation and depression, which led to a suicide attempt after coming home from a holiday trip. He said he felt his life was “worthless.”

After his suicide attempt, Gage was rushed to the hospital, and he told his peers he came out of the incident a better person.

“Not many are so lucky,” he said. "Some don’t survive.”

Gage suggested to the students that if they see someone sitting alone at a lunch table, they should sit next to them.

Both Amanda and Gage received applause from their classmates.

Celebration: After several student speeches, the celebration of the school’s diversity began.

Multi-genre dance band B-Tropical started beating percussion instruments and playing rhythms as spirit members got up from their seats and rallied along with the band’s lead singer, Yvon Tatafasa, around the gym.

After getting students to participate and leave their seats on the bleachers, more than 100 students gathered on the gym floor to dance, clap and hold hands in unity.

The celebration continued for more than 30 minutes, with one dance leading to another.

Reaction: “It was bananas,” said Christopher, who was pleased at the turnout and participation from students. “We have kids from the ‘burbs to the most challenged parts of York City. That’s diversity.”

Lucy Torres, a senior at the school and a member of Spartan Spirit, said she cried twice during the ceremony.

“It was so beautiful how everyone just joined in and were sharing their stories,” she said.

Sarah Koveleski

York Tech Assistant Director Scott Rogers said that after everything that has transpired at the school, he is glad to see students coming together.

“This is exactly what we wanted for our student body,” he said.

Christopher is encouraged by the unity shown at the school.

“It’s a start, and by no means is the journey finished,” she said. “But this shows that we’ve come a long way.”