Digging deeper

Aliyah Austin, Reporter

Since this is my last hoorah, I feel the need to take a different approach to my senior column. If you know me, this should come as no surprise.

During my time at GHHS, I’ve realized my passion for fighting for the underdogs and expressing the struggles of those without an outlet to do so. I would be failing them and myself if I didn’t take this opportunity to say something- so here we go.

It’s hard to find your way in a town that feeds off of appearances, and this town certainly does.

Consider the Save the Catwalk campaign. We’re pushing to spend money on a pointless catwalk that could be used for other, truly life-enhancing things, like, I don’t know, maybe affordable housing (since we have a struggling homeless population) or greater mental health awareness and support (since too many of our friends are still seeing no other way to get help than to end their lives.) I could go on, but I’ll stop there. And why are we wasting $1,000,000? Because we think the pier “just looks weird.” Meanwhile, we ignore our real problems.

But this is unsurprising and falls in line with what seems to be the GH slogan: just make it look nice.

In turn, we are divided; those of us that follow the unspoken orders dutifully, and those of us that don’t. The students that take the slogan to heart are the ones that run the show.

There’s a clear problem here, but some of our classmates are too shrouded in privilege to care. If you’re sneering in indignant shock right now, chances are, I’m talking about you. But if you’re nodding your head- you know.

We are pushed away, but there are many of us drowning in the waves created by the picture perfect beach town facade.

This is not a perfect place. We are not perfect people. Playing into the happy, pretty little city fantasy will do more harm than good. It crushes individuality and suppresses who we truly are. In reality, we are a struggling community, at war with itself both socially and structurally.

There are hidden groups of people in Grand Haven that we don’t want to see. We have a migrant, immigrant and refugee population that is purposefully tucked away. Families are struggling to find affordable housing in the area. An alarming amount of our peers are battling mental illnesses.

During my time here, I have struggled. And I know a lot of you have, too. But instead of addressing our problems, we are attempting to cover them up.

I’m taking the time to say this instead of going on some long, mushy rant about how I’ve changed and how excited for the future I am because, while those things are true, the most important lesson this school has taught me is that being genuine matters. I can’t leave this school thinking that I didn’t say something when I had a chance.

So please, disregard appearances. The drastic changes we experiences in high school are hard enough without the added pressure that living in this picture perfect beach town creates. It’s an illusion. Don’t try to mirror it. Understand that we do have problems and ignoring them and attempting to fit the GH mold will only hurt you.

My time at GHHS has come to an end and my future awaits.

Before I go, I need you all to know that I see you. I understand you. And I will never stop fighting for you.