Positive Sticky Notes Beat Racist Graffiti at Orlando Area High School

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Just outside Orlando earlier this month, racist graffiti was found in a bathroom at Oviedo high school. Coming on the heels of a presidential election that had the topic of racism front and center, the graffiti apparently made mention of the Ku Klux Klan, President-elect Trump and a return to slavery. While the majority of the student body expressed shock and sadness at this act, a group of friends chose another approach. Apparently taking inspiration from the ‘subway therapy’ project going on in New York City (where sticky notes of hope have been placed in subway stations around the city) four students got out their post-it notes as a response to the racist graffiti.

These four girls – Bryn Garick, Asiana Battle, Cassidy Gillis, and Rachel Nasby – got together and agreed to try and do something uplifting. They ended up spending several hours on a Sunday night, writing inspirational messages on 400 post it notes. Bryn Garick said that she was surprised by the racist messages and ‘a lot of people were really upset’. She and her friends got together and discussed what had happened, how they felt about it and what they wanted to do about it. They decided they didn’t want to combat hate with hate. Perhaps they realized it wouldn’t be productive or perhaps it just wasn’t in their hearts to do so.

The next morning, they posted the notes throughout one of the bathrooms on the high school’s campus, covering the walls. They initially wanted to cover up the graffiti with their notes of hope but were unable to as the graffitied bathroom was locked, most likely until the graffiti was removed. The notes contained positive messages from any source they could think of – from song lyrics to inspirational quotes – some of them reading ‘Laugh Often’ and ‘Listen With An Open Heart’. Joe Trybus, Oviedo principal, planned to meet with the girls to thank them personally. ‘It made me feel unbelievable’, he said.

The girls came into school early on Monday in order to put the notes up in the bathroom before school started. Bryn Garick took a picture after they were done and sent it to her mom, who then shared it on Facebook. It wasn’t too long into the school day before other students started to take notice and word spread about the bathroom with the notes covering the walls. Bryn’s mother’s Facebook post was received extremely positively, with many heartfelt responses and many people sharing and spreading the story. The sticky note project in New York City subways started out as an outlet for people’s feelings following a very emotional presidential election. There have been reports of other people taking inspiration from this project and using it as their own form of ‘therapy’, as these four Oviedo students did.

We can only hope that more will be inspired to look for such productive outlets for their feelings, looking to uplift others when maybe they feel a bit down. ‘I didn’t like the negativity it was spreading’, said Garick, ‘I wanted to do something positive’.