Walk-Out Speech

KatieAnn Nguyen

Speech read by KatieAnn Nguyen during West County High School’s walkout last Friday, January 14th in opposition to the WSCUHSD Board of Trustees’ decision to revert back to the name Analy High School. 

Picture this: It is the first day of your senior year. You began it just like every other student here. Nervous, afraid, maybe even a little excited. You woke up for your first day of in-person school after a full year of distance learning thrilled. But when you reached school, you saw a big banner that read West County on the front and the realization hit you: this wasn’t Analy or El Molino anymore. You would start your senior year with a clean slate, at a school where no one knows its name. 

The realization leaves you with a strange feeling that you can’t quite place. You’re not disappointed, you’re not even upset, you’re just…tired. All last spring, there were talks of consolidation, there were so many talks about them vs. us, there was so much hostility. You remember anger and you remember hurt and you remember grief. You remember going to El Molino and you remember talking to El Molino students, and you remember the pain they felt, the hurt they described. You remember hearing about the community, the family they’d lost. And you remember hearing their words echo in your mind. You never had a special attachment to the Analy name, but hearing their stories, their memories, you realize: they lost a part of themselves when El Molino shut down. And so you enter through the doors of this new school, you enter through to a new beginning, carrying the weight of their words with you. 

West County? What an odd name you think. Maybe even unoriginal you say. But you can live with it at least. The school colors? Red and blue? It’s an adjustment you tell yourself. You, just like every other of the 1600 students, are taking in this new reality you’ve become a part of. Instead of spending your last week of summer doing anything else except coming to school, you come to this new school, this new and different and maybe even a little scary, community. You spend every day of that last week of summer giving tours, you spend every day of that last week getting to know other students just like yourself, you spend it getting to know a campus that you once thought you already knew. In a way, not just the name had changed, and you realized that when you came back to school that first day during the summer. 

And so on the first day of school, you watch your old and new teachers leaping across the field at 8:30 in the morning. You’re wearing a red and blue tie-dyed spirit shirt, and you’re wondering to yourself how this school year will unfold. Because if a school year starts with teachers doing a dance on the field, it couldn’t get any better than that, right? 

When the bell rings for the first class of this school year, you take a breath. In the mix of people you know, there are students you have never seen before, students who came from El Molino. But, here’s the strange thing: there’s nothing different about them. The argument had always been them vs. us, but now that you’re all together in one room you realize, what was the thing that separated you from each other in the first place? They are students just like you, they laugh and joke around just like you, so why, why was it ever them vs us? You wonder this as you sit in the back of your trigonometry class. 

As the days begin to pass by, faster than you had thought, you soon find yourself in September, a whole month into the school year. The strangers that once used to pass you by in the hallways and the strangers that once occupied your classes began to become friendly faces. The awkwardness in the air still hangs over everyone, yet it feels more like a gentle reminder, not an obvious warning. So school begins to feel like a routine again, it begins to feel like…a community. You wake up every morning, and you find yourself happy to go to school, it doesn’t just feel like a place you’re forced to go to anymore. 

The year unfolds, and you find yourself surrounded by people you absolutely adore. These once strangers, it’s funny how quickly they became some of your best friends. You thank the consolidation for that. You even wonder how you could have not even known these people existed before. It’s not just the people though, you soon find yourself in more extracurriculars than you’ve ever been in before. And it’s new and exciting and frightening, but you can’t help but love it. It’s different from your freshman year, when you went to school just because you didn’t have a choice. You look forward to every day now. You wake up in the morning, no matter how tired, and you wonder to yourself how the day will unfold, or rather, what new memories you’ll make. You don’t even realize how happy you are at this new school. You don’t even realize how much of a community has grown out of it. You wonder, when did the name West County begin to grow on you? You even wonder when did the red and blue tie dye shirts begin to look good? 

The school, West County, became something more than just a school to you. Somehow, when you weren’t looking, it snuck up on you, to the point where you couldn’t see yourself at any other school. It gave you a lot of your firsts: your first club, your first volleyball game, your first football game, your first basketball game, your first Color Dance, your first Chillingo, your first place to call home away from home. And when you look back, you can’t help but smile at the memories you’ve made, you can’t help but smile at the friends you’ve made, you can’t help but smile at the community of West County. It’s grown on you, and you can’t deny that. 

So when you hear the decision that Wednesday night in December. That decision to take away all of these memories, that decision to get rid of the school you began to call home, that decision to go back to the Analy name, you’re hurt. You’re more than hurt. You’re angry, you’re upset, you wish you could do something besides leave that decision in the hands of people who you’ve never even seen on campus before. They don’t know the history that has begun to be made with West County, they don’t know the firsts that have been given or the memories embedded into your heart. And so, in a single night, word of the first walkout spreads. And you can’t just not do anything. 

In your 4th period class the very next day, you walk out. For the first time in your life, you cut a class. But it feels right. You walk to the Square, through the Barlow, hear the honking of cars in their support. You are surrounded by hundreds of students just like you, who hold the same opinion as you do. They too think that this name change back to Analy is the worst decision to have ever been made. And you hear it in their voices, in their cheers, their cries, their resolve. You see the look in their eyes and you realize, this isn’t just a name to them either. You look at them and you know that they didn’t just walk out to cut class, you look at them and you know that they are here because they want their voices heard, you know that they are here, walking with you, because West County matters to them. It is more than just a name, it is a beginning. 

Nothing changes after that first walkout, and you are disappointed. It feels like you weren’t heard, it feels like people aren’t taking you seriously. They tell you that it isn’t a real issue, but you wonder why isn’t this a real issue? Why does it not matter when it is your life that is being impacted? Why does it not matter when your voices are being undermined? Why is your anger not valid? You have spent the last six months creating a community at West County, the last six months making something out of the beginning given to you, and they tell you that your feelings don’t matter? 

You have walked the hallways of West County more times than you can count, you have gone to the school events, you have interacted and connected with so many new teachers this year, you have seen the spirit at school, the energy, you have seen what the community is like at West County, and it has come to form a special place in your heart. If these feelings aren’t valid, you say, then what is?  

And so, one walk out was never enough. It was not enough for them to hear you, not enough for them to understand your feelings, not enough for you to tell them how you feel about West County. And so, another walkout is planned, the one you stand at today. You are out here in the sun, after weeks of tedious planning, after weeks of talking with your student body, you are out here in front of a crowd of students just like yourself, facing the adversity of COVID, facing the adversity of community members, facing the adversity of push-back, and you stand tall despite it all. You stand out here because West County is worth the trials, because West County is worth your blood, sweat, and tears, because West County is worth standing in the face of adversity for. 

You are walking out of class today because you are angry. You are walking out of class today because you want your voice to be heard. You are walking out of class today because you do not want your history at West County to be erased, because there are no more Analy or El Molino students, only West County students. You are walking out of class today because you will not let the beginning that you saw on that first day of school be taken away from you. This is your community, your home, this is West County. 


You are out of the picture now. And you are listening to me up here, but I can only tell you my own story. Your story, let them hear it, let them know that the decision in their hands impacts all of our stories. And let them know that you will not let them take away those stories, those memories, from you.