Say YESS to equality


Photo by Alyssa Kift

Story by Audrey Haskins, staff writer

Students understand what it means to be different. Every morning the band students let their peers hear trumpets blaring and drums ringing in their ears. Students buy tickets to enjoy theatrical performances and football games. There are people who obsess over fashion, and students who are in love with language. However, when a determined sophomore steps through the school doors, he sees room for improvement. He’s ready to show the school what “different” really means.

Sophomore Atlas Hines hopes to encourage equality and difference with his new club Youth Encouraging Student Success and Equality, or YESS Equality.

The club’s meetings will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday meetings will be in Room 36 and Thursday meetings will be in Room 44.

“I’m hoping for YESS Equality to be a support network for those who don’t feel supported anywhere else,” Hines said. “[YESS Equality’s] main focus is the LGBTQ plus community, but that’s not the club’s only focus.”

Students are often afraid of others’ opinions on who they are as people. Their homes may not be loving and school may be the only other option they have to find appreciation for their identities.

“I notice people don’t feel like they have a place where they can be themselves whether that be at home or at school,” Hines said. “People can suck sometimes and I think that everyone only sees that side of people. I want to show that it doesn’t have to be like that all the time.”

“People need people to accept them. People may feel invalid with their culture and environment,” Hines said. “I want to clear up the stigma with a lot of things. Feminism, for example. I want to clean up all of that.”

The focus of the club is to show students they have a place to belong and that they aren’t so different or alone in the world.

“I want to show people mainly that they aren’t alone in how they feel and don’t have to feel bad,” Hines said. “I want to raise awareness in many ways. I want people to feel safe in their own skin and environment.”

Hines worries that not all will share his club’s vision of equality, especially parents.

“I do feel like there will be some negative backlash, and I am worried, but I’m working to prevent that,” Hines said. “I’m trying to cover all of my bases. Parents can’t prevent equality.”

I want people to feel safe in their own skin and environment”

— Atlas Hines

The more involved students become with this club and the more information they retain may lead to a change in political beliefs, which may also affect parents.

“I don’t know if [the club] could change political beliefs, but maybe their tolerance and how they view things as a whole,” Hines said. “Not just politically, but maybe getting parents to think how much of a difference their view change can affect their friends or their child, then maybe it’s important to be aware or compassionate and to have an open mind.”

Although Texas is viewed as a traditional state, clubs like YESS Equality are a start to progressing with society.

“I think Texas is changing,” Hines said. “I used to think of Texarkana and think ‘There’s no one here who accepts me, there’s no one that I have.’ You know Texarkana has non-profit organizations like ‘Equality Texarkana,’ which is amazing for us. There are so many people who are already reaching out to me and asking about [the club].

Hines encourages students to become active and turn what they’re passionate about into something bigger.

“This club means a lot to me,” Hines said. “It means I’m doing something to help other people and that makes me feel great. It’s already affected my confidence. I used to go home and feel like I wasn’t doing enough, and now I feel like I can do more. I’m proud, I am.”

Hines is the first person in recent history to start an organization like YESS Equality, and he is proud to be taking a step in changing the school’s environment.

“I find it hard to believe I’m the first person to ever do this,” Hines said. “I do think YESS Equality is a place where people can be informed. Ignorance is probably the biggest problem that nobody knows is having such a huge impact. They don’t know how to handle it or how to approach it. That’s one of the things I want to help with. I don’t know… I want to make a difference.”