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RFHS students reflect on Trump win

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No incidents at the school

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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In the weeks following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, there have been numerous reports of verbal and physical attacks of different kinds on immigrants, which observers have largely linked to anti-immigrant statements made by candidate Trump during the recent presidential campaign and to his supporters.

Even here in the Roaring Fork Valley, a legal forum was held last Saturday on immigration issues and immigrants’ anxieties about their future under Trump.

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Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, in an effort to reassure local Hispanics, told a local newspaper last week that his department is not about to start looking for illegal immigrants to deport.

And elsewhere in Carbondale, while similar anxieties have been reported by some Hispanic immigrants, the mood at Roaring Fork High School was one of cautious hopefulness, at least as far as three student leaders could tell.

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“It’s definitely not the end of the world,” said senior Lorenzo Andrade, president of the senior class. “The sun will come up tomorrow, and we definitely have to not resort to violence and stuff like that. We just have to stay, like, together.”

Senior Tavia Teitler, recalling the mood immediately following the election, said “there were a lot of red eyes, and a lot of people that were very upset. It kind of felt like the whole school was in mourning, in shock.”

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She noted that, in the most recent edition of the Roaring Fork Rampage student newspaper (which was published prior to the election in The Sopris Sun), a survey of student opinions about the upcoming election was upbeat.

“It was overwhelmingly in support of Hillary (Clinton, the defeated Democratic candidate),” said Teitler, who is the senior class secretary.

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The day after the election, she continued, she stayed home from school in the morning to let her emotions settle down.

“I was super shocked and very emotionally distraught,” she explained. “Also, I didn’t feel like I could handle going to school and seeing all the people, all of my friends, that were so deeply affected.”

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She and another class leader, Student Body President Fabian Rico, said there were not many Trump supporters celebrating Trump’s victory, though Rico conceded, “there were a couple with the hat,” referring to the Make America Great Again hats that became a hallmark of Trump supporters throughout the campaign.

Teitler, Rico and Andrade agreed a week after the election to sit down and talk with The Sopris Sun about their feelings, and each said they had been confident going into election night, Nov. 8, that Clinton would win.

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After election night

When the result proved them wrong, Rico said, his father was really hurt. “He went to sleep early because he just didn’t want to see it any more,” Rico recalled.

Andrade, too, said his family was “really shocked at the possibility of a Trump presidency” because of the candidate’s “racially charged” remarks and his statements with regard to women and minorities in general.

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Rico, who said his immediate family members all are legal residents of this country, emphasized that they are not worried they will be deported, but are concerned “for other family members” whom he did not identify but whom might be targeted for deportation due to their immigration status.

“They’ve been working so hard to make a name for themselves and for other Hispanics in the community,” he commented, and to hear Trump label Hispanics as rapists and criminals, and to call women pigs, “was just really hurtful for them.”

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Teitler, who described herself and her friends as “incredulous” at Trump’s victory, added that in the week after the election she had “sort of come down and realized that a lot of people who supported his election did so out of fear and not outright hate.”

She admitted that she is “very lucky, because the privilege that I have (being white and born in the U.S.) protects me from a lot of what he (Trump) wants to do.”

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But, she went on, “for so many people around me that I love and see every day, it’s not that way for them.”

Rico noted that his friends and relations have been avidly discussing the election and the future, with “a few jokes about what the future looks like,” but in general, “We’re just very unsure about what the future could look like.”

They wonder if Trump will carry through with some of his anti-immigrant ideas, or whether “he was just doing it to be elected.”

All three student leaders said there had been no inter-student fights or other forms of conflict over the election campaign or its results.

The day after

On the day after the vote, Andrade said, students were being “considerate of their peers,” and there was little or no jeering or cheering by Trump supporters. The three agreed that perhaps 10 percent of the class appeared to support Trump.

“I’ve actually been really proud of our school and how they’ve dealt with the election,” she declared, continuing that most of her classmates are talking “about how now’s the time to join together, to be loving, and not fight hate with hate.”

“Overall, we have an accepting, tolerant community” at the high school, Andrade said, and no one at the school has been “outright racist as a result of the election.”

Some of his extended family, Andrade said, “definitely have some angst, especially some who are undocumented,” and some of his cousins who are “Dreamers” — undocumented young people of Hispanic origin who were brought to this country as young children and are now protected from deportation by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order, or DACA.

The name, Dreamers, comes from the Development, Relief and Education for Minors Act, introduced by a Republican and a Democrat in the U.S. Senate in 2001 to protect immigrants who were brought here as children and who have been educated here.

Trump at one point pledged to overturn Obama’s order and pursue millions of undocumented immigrants for deportation as illegal aliens, although even some in his own party have begun working against any such move on Trump’s part.

According to Andrade and Teitler, some students have been holding meetings for those worried about their immigration status, and that some relatively recent immigrants have met with a Colorado Mountain College representative to see about what legal recourse they may have and about which state educational institutions are offering in-state tuition to immigrants.

As for the immediate future, Teitler’s advice to students and others was, “I think we just have to all keep finding the things that we care about, and doing the things we want to be doing,” such as continued involvement in the Energy Club at RFHS even though Trump “doesn’t believe in climate change.”

“Stay hopeful, stay united, don’t believe everything the media tells you,” she advised, particularly citing what she said is “a lot of false news going on, like Facebook. It’s certainly not an excuse to give up, to stop fighting for the things that are important to you, to stop fighting for change. We have to offer our support as Americans, to keep our government and our democratic system working.”

All three said they have thought about getting involved in politics in the past, and indicated that the current state of affairs may strengthen that interest.

Published in The Sopris Sun on December 8, 2016.