Lake Shore High School media productions teacher Tami Blaszkowski films Alex Salerno, a senior, for a #WhatsYour17 episode March 5.

Lake Shore High School media productions teacher Tami Blaszkowski films Alex Salerno, a senior, for a #WhatsYour17 episode March 5.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Student campaign promotes friendly gestures in wake of Florida school shooting

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 9, 2018

 In each episode, Salerno challenges students to pay compliments, smile at or otherwise interact with people outside of their social circle.

In each episode, Salerno challenges students to pay compliments, smile at or otherwise interact with people outside of their social circle.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

ST. CLAIR SHORES — “Seventeen reasons for change. Seventeen ways to make a difference.

“What’s your 17?”

The Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and more than a dozen others injured has had an impact across the country. While students nationwide have taken part in marches and walkouts, a local teacher at Lake Shore High School saw a different reaction online that she hoped would make a difference in St. Clair Shores.

“One of the other teachers had posted it; they were talking about the walkout for 17 minutes. A student said, instead of walking out, why don’t we do something to remember these people and change the climate?” said Lake Shore High School media productions teacher Tami Blaszkowski. 

That sparked #WhatsYour17, a series of episodes that will run during daily announcements at Lake Shore High School challenging students to make a change in the building, and remembering and commemorating the students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. 

During the first episode March 1, student Alex Salerno, a senior, explained the challenge.

“Each day, we will count down the ways for you to make a change here at Lake Shore,” he said. 

The first challenge was to smile at 17 people the viewer hadn’t met. The second episode called for saying hello to 16 new people. Episode 3 challenged viewers to give out 15 compliments to random people, and the fourth challenge was to post 14 positive comments on social media sites for people the viewers don’t usually talk to.

Each episode ends with the same tagline: “Seventeen reasons for change. Seventeen ways to make a difference. What’s your 17?”

“Each one’s supposed to be a little harder than the last one,” Salerno said. 

The goal is to reach out across the student body and help everyone to come together as a community, Blaszkowski said. 

“There were these individuals that died. (The episodes aim to) do something positive to remember them by, not just make it all about the political,” she said. “We can make a change internally if everyone tried ... if you had more connections with all of them.”

Blaszkowski asked Salerno to be the face of the campaign because of his interest in the theater arts. He’s good with serious topics, she said. 

Salerno said that Lake Shore High School is a “mostly” friendly and accepting school, but there are always people who could use a kind word or gesture.

“As a theater kid ... you’re not really accepted as the norm,” he said. “We consider it like family in the theater production. We know how it feels to be outcasts, so we accept more, so I think it would be better for the whole school to do that as well.”

A few days into the campaign, which will end at spring break, Salerno said he had gotten some good feedback from teachers, staff, parents and some friends.

The episodes are available on the class’s YouTube channel, LSHS Video Production. Blaszkowski said they have been getting more response on social media from posts with #WhatsYour17 than with other videos.

Students at the high school are still talking about the Parkland shooting and debating the politics of what change needs to happen to prevent future tragedies, Blaszkowski said. 

“They’re a powerful force,” she said of the teenage students. “They do have their opinions and their thoughts, and they do debate it and talk about it. I think that’s part of the process.” 

Salerno said he doesn’t want fear to rule his life.

“I don’t think it does you any good to just be scared all the time, because if you live your life in fear, you’re not going to accomplish anything,” he said. 

“In choir class, we had a big group circle. We (said that we) need to be more connected with our emotions because our society, with electronics, (has) been cut off from our own personal emotions.”

He said he’s hoping to see some change in the entire student body as a result of #WhatsYour17, but especially in the seniors.

“We’re about to go out into the world. Everyone else still has a year or two years to get a hold of things,” he said. “We’ve got two months before we have to go out and show our parents we can make it out there.”

Follow the LSHS Video Production channel on YouTube and TblaszClassroom on Twitter for more from the media productions classroom at Lake Shore High School.