Students receive Keith Hawkin’s call to unify

Saba Saffarian-Toos and Sasha Kvitsinski

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On Feb. 14, in order to promote stronger connections and relationships on campus, guest speaker Keith Hawkins held two sessions in the Artists Theatre before hosting a 6th-period extended discussion in the school library with a cross-section of student leaders. The inspirational speaker talked about diversity among students and how we must come together to better our communities.

Hawkins grew up in unstable surroundings, having a single parent mom, an abusive dad and a poor education, yet he turned his hardships into opportunities to connect with others.

“There were many times throughout my schooling where I did things that didn’t make me likable, but adults saw past my negative actions and looked for the good in me,” said Hawkins. “I think for the most part, every school staff is trying to do that for all of their students.”

Hawkins’ arrival at our district isn’t his first. In fact, he has spoken to Thurston in past years, and his positive prior impact led to his return.

Students spend seven hours a day and spend a chunk of their lives on campus. Because of this, Hawkins believes everyone should have a meaningful connection to someone at school. He strives to make schools both safe and friendly environments. Hawkins reminded us we all go through tough situations, and we can always grow and become better.

“My school was full of racial minorities, and religious, cultural and social economics could not have been more different,” said Hawkins. “We never had a culture at our school that allowed the students and the staff to have a conversation about who people were at school.”

Realizing many students view high school with a “them vs. me” or “inferior vs. superior” perspective, Hawkins reminds us that we all have troubles, and we are more alike than different. He reminded us whenever individuals are in a minority around a majority, they do whatever they can do to fit in and make friends, but this can often result in them further secluding themselves. Hawkins also explained the importance of not having preconceived notions of people based on appearances or perceived differences.  

“I do believe effective speakers make an impact. There are few people who are effective speakers—who raise an impact and give people a few things to talk about,” said principal Chris Herzfeld.

Hawkins believes every student is somehow looking for “real” leadership. He explained his primary motivation to become a speaker was to inspire leaders to come together and to learn different ways to affect their environment positively.

He showed us that in order to be leaders, we should never compare ourselves to others, and we can never think that we are better or lesser than others.

“This is about Laguna Beach. This is about the high school. This is about your community. This is about creating something bigger than all these speakers,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins referred to our school as family, and he told us that, while others may talk behind our backs, family will always speak straight to our faces.

“He was a very blunt guy. Instead of tip-toeing around the situation that occurred, he straight up told us what we did was wronghe told us that we are good people, but we just need to learn from our experiences and improve. It wasn’t your generic ‘be nicer’ kind of speech,” said sophomore Kate Brown.

Hawkins told us that his assembly is trainingthat he came here to tell us the truth, not to give us worldly wisdom. He continued by communicating that we follow what others do, not what they say.

“I think our students are willing to think, to discuss, to have dialogue; I think that they are willing to talk about topics like [culture and diversity] with compassion,” said principal Chris Herzfeld.

Although people look at Laguna Beach and assume that we can be “stuck-up” and “ignorant,” Laguna Beach has always been known as a place of acceptance and diversity. Hawkins urged us not only to mend our community on the inside, but fix what others see from the outside, as well.

“Although we may not be rising in a linear fashion, I think Laguna is becoming more culturally aware and more forgiving to everyone. Hawkins definitely empowered our school, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said sophomore Taylor Tran.

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