Unity March: Issaquah Students Take a Stand on Racism and Public Perception

STUDENTS STAND UP: Senior Alex Cordova says, “I hope that what Issaquah takes away from this is that our administration and are district needs to treat these events with more than just respect but no longer using tolerance to handle these situations. We need to work together to make this a more inclusive place.”

Abigail Lee, Staff Writer

There is a deep silence as a crowd eagerly listens to the speaker. The only noise is the slow tapping of rain on umbrellas, the whirring of passing by cars, and the booming voice of change in Issaquah High school.

In light of the specific events that occurred this past weekend, senior Engu Fontama and senior Alex Liu worked together to form a walkout of unity for the students at IHS. Fontama, who is the current president of the Consciousness and Race Empowerment club, says, “I was upset that other schools were seeing us [in a negative way,] especially with everything that happened with Newport last year. It was embarrassing for our school and we’ve been trying to turn things around since then. But this felt like a slap in the face to all the students and teachers who have been working together to make our school a more inclusive environment…It’s like a single moment tears down all our hard work.” The walkout was centered around ideas of positivity, unity, but also accountability; hoping to round students together to embrace one another and simultaneously take action for our roles in making Issaquah a more inclusive place.

When the the clock hit 12:15 on that drizzly Wednesday April 3, students all over the campus began to stream out of classroom and gather in the commons. Liu and Fontama stood confidently with a megaphone, speaking out to the students waiting in anticipation to start. From there, the two students led the crowd outside, through the steady rain and grey sky, to the sign facing the open road. There were five speakers on that day, freshman Chembe Fontama and seniors Lauren Campbell and Dylan Hempworth, and previously named Liu and Engu Fontama. Powerful statements were made by C. Fontama, “[We need to] put our money where are mouths are, we need to put actions into our words…start today to make it count.” Throughout the speeches, local news documented the crowds, spreading to the public about what Issaquah High would do for change.

As the walkout came to a close, the mass of students and teachers began to file back inside, and many in the crowd had something to say. Kate Kelly, an AP U.S. History teacher here at IHS said, “I think that the turnout was amazing, the overarching message of all the speakers today was about being the change and creating the change that we want to see and that makes me proud to work at Issaquah.” Another voice in the crowd, junior Adam Hansen commented, “I really was impressed at the size of it all. Everyone I talked to said they were coming to the walk out. There was really a sense of pride to it all.”

One walkout cannot remove the pain and history of racism at IHS, or in the United States, but by taking this stand, Issaquah students and staff showed the desire for a better future, one where we can make Issaquah fully inclusive for all.