Amidst the stress and the boundless obligations that come with being a Pine View student, it can be hard to take a step back and acknowledge the individuals that make up our community. However, in 2016, Pine View alumna and founder of Humans of Pine View (HOPV), Suzanne Brown, moved past the intensity of her own life and created a place where Pine View staff and students could recognize the fact that everyone has their own story.
HOPV is a spin-off of photographer and author Brandon Stanton’s open-ended photography project Humans of New York (HONY), in which he takes pictures of and conducts interviews with strangers on the streets of New York City. HOPV has the same inquisitive nature of HONY, except instead of sharing the stories of strangers in Manhattan, HOPV shares stories a little closer to home: the Pine View community.
In early 2016, during Brown’s sophomore year of high school, the Sensitivity Task Force was created to increase diversity awareness and combat bullying, toxicity, false stereotypes and stigmas that often accompany high school students in their everyday lives. “I came up with the idea of using HOPV as a method to increase diversity awareness and education because with so much negativity going on online, it felt like HOPV would be a way to understand and empathize with those around us, rather than make these prejudiced judgments based off first glance,” Brown said.
HOPV was also created with the goal of giving voices to members of the community who are willing to share their stories. “Everybody around us has their own story, has their own issues, and has their own struggles and things they may be dealing with. So HOPV is trying to unearth these problems that might be going on within these people’s lives and understand that there’s an environment to be aware of and more sensitive towards,” Brown said, clarifying the mission of HOPV.
The interviews for the project are conducted by different journalists, but all convey the same message: everyone has a story to tell. From students talking about their greatest fears to comments about “today in micro fashion,” where a younger student wearing an extravagant outfit discusses trends, they all capture the true essence of the Pine View community. “The interview process is the best because you’re connecting with people, but not for any of the wrong reasons or anything like that. You’re truly just two strangers opening up to each other. Everybody has a story to tell and everybody has something that they want to say, and it’s really heart-warming to know that you were the person someone opened up to when they really needed it,” current HOPV editor eleventh-grader Ella Hechlik said.
Twelfth-grader Melissa Santoyo, editor of HOPV during the 2017-2018 school year, believes that the vulnerability shared between the interviewer and the person being interviewed is completely unique compared to any other journalistic publication at Pine View. “That vulnerability is really powerful, especially in today’s society where most of us hide our troubles and problems under some facade. Getting to know my peers on a more personal level and then posting that raw emotion online, it’s very cathartic, for both parties involved,” Santoyo said.
HOPV not only gives people a place to speak but also a place to listen and to relate to others experiencing similar issues to themselves. “People can be so wrapped up in their own worlds, whether it be schoolwork or family stuff, that they can’t think beyond what’s right in front of them. But, it’s important to show people that there are others going through the same things and that they’re not alone. But, also to lift their heads up every once in a while and realize that Pine View is such a special place,” Hechlik said.
Over the past year, Hechlik has expanded HOPV’s social media presence, and has taken it from a mere Facebook page to a popular Instagram account. Both the former and current editors are excited to see HOPV continue to develop. “You don’t have to be interviewed and you might not be, but be open to the possibility of being approached. Take the Instagram and Facebook for what it is and appreciate the stories; appreciate the people who took the time to collect them and the people who were brave enough to open up to our staff and put their story out there,” Hechlik said.