One Michigan high school is taking “this is your tape” to the next level.
Student volunteers at Oxford High School are sharing 13 messages of gratitude during the morning announcements these next few weeks as a response to Netflix‘s popular new series 13 Reasons Why. In the show, a teenage girl commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes addressed to different people explaining how they played a role in her life. After seeing the series herself, Oxford Dean Pam Fine says the project seemed like a positive way to start a conversation about mental health among her students.
“I thought [the show] accurately depicted the problems that teenagers in high school are facing now,” Fine said to the Oakland Press News. “But it was incredibly troubling to me that suicide was portrayed as being, almost, inevitable, like she had no other option… The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show… Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope.”
The announcements were kept a secret at the Oxford, Michigan, school, so while students rolled into class Monday morning expecting to hear the regular spiel, they were surprised with a message from senior Riley Juntti.
“Worthless. Self-centered. No morals. Easy. Grimy. Cake face. You would be better off dead. That’s just the start of what you would label me as every day for two years,” Juntti said in her recording.
So far, not too dissimilar from the Netflix show. But at the end of her message, instead of naming her bullies, she thanked a different classmate. “This tape is for you Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share, and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I can not repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not.”
Juntti’s phone and social media accounts reportedly “blew up with support from her classmates—some who she’s never met.”
s/o to riley juntti for being brave enough to share such personal information with the entire school in hopes of helping even just 1 person
— glo (@GloBranch) May 1, 2017
riley juntti is my hero
— brooke viv⚛️ (@brooke_viviano) May 1, 2017
The story has since gone viral, inspiring thousands to tweet their own messages using #13ReasonsWhyNot, and it’s easy to see why. Instead of polarizing the student body or issuing a warning about the show (like another Michigan high school did), they’re teaching the kids to start talking with one another. And to hopefully start listening, too.