‘Stories for Salem’ aims to celebrate, highlight diversity


‘Stories for Salem’ aims to celebrate, highlight diversity

Published 6:12 p.m. PT Feb. 28, 2017 | Updated 6:34 p.m. PT Feb. 28, 2017

When Casey Chaffin learned refugees were coming to Salem in 2016, she realized she didn’t know much about refugees or a handful of other groups of people already living in the city.

Chaffin, a senior at West Salem High School, decided to learn more and spread the word.

Chaffin is now spearheading a project called “Stories for Salem.”

The goal of the project, she said, is to get Salem talking about and embracing its diversity. This is one of 12 student-led projects in the United States to receive a sponsorship from the Bezos Scholars Program, a leadership development initiative for high school students.

Chaffin, an aspiring journalist, said she wants to start a positive conversation and help people realize “different is a good thing.”

“Our goal is to bring the community together to talk about why our differences make us beautiful,” Chaffin said. “You don’t hear good news very often, but it’s out there — you just have to look for it.”

She and her team will write about various aspects of diversity in the community including refugees and migrant workers, adoption, and Islam. Depending on the story, they will interview students, parents, teachers and other community members.

Twenty-five students from Straub and West are participating in the project; a few community members are submitting content as well. The final product will be an 8-12 page special edition of West Salem’s newspaper, The Titan Spectator, which will be distributed at an open house on April 7.

Tyler Wilson, a seventh grader at Straub, is writing about stereotypes between different areas in Salem. He interviewed other students across the district to see if they think the stereotypes between schools are true and how his peers are impacted by them.

“Talking with my dad made me realize how much (stereotypes impact) people,” he said, adding that he splits his time in West, South and North Salem.

Wilson said stereotypes may have some truth, but don’t apply to everyone. He said he hasn’t really seen people trying to help end them.

“I hope (my) story can really impact people,” he said. “Stereotypes aren’t a good thing; they can really hurt people’s feelings.”

Chaffin was excited to work with the younger students in partnerships.

“I wanted to include younger students and allow them to be heard,” she said.

For more information, contact West Salem High School at 503-399-5533 or go to titanspectator.weebly.com.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

Read Stories for Salem

The publication of Stories for Salem will be distributed at an open house event at West Salem High School, 1776 Titan Dr. NW, on Friday, April 7 from 6-8 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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