Sophomore Brett Park doesn’t like peas. There’s something about the way the vegetable tastes, how it releases slightly sweet, lukewarm juice that fills him with disgust. He hates the way the slightest touch peels open the skin of a pea, making his fingers sticky with liquid.
He’s felt this way as long as he can remember, his hatred for peas remaining constant and unwavering. It’s why, as a young child, he would push his peas away, setting them aside and ignoring them until the whole plate was wiped clean except for those green particles piling on top of each other.
Invisible, untouched, insignificant. These are the words Park uses to describe peas, and as of September of 2017, the people, stories and issues he attempts to cover as part of his social media campaign, Society Peas.
Inspired partly by his experience with the vegetable, which he notes is often overlooked and discarded, Park’s Instagram account aims to uncover the hidden stories lurking within the MVHS community. He describes it as a form of gossip column — only, instead of providing the inside scoop on high school drama, it sheds light on the most hidden of issues.
“Society Peas is almost like a gossip channel for good,” Park said. “People want to have an inside scoop on everything that’s going on in school, but these are the inside scoops on things people don’t really want to talk about.”
This concept of awareness, or the lack thereof, was brought up repeatedly at the Digital for Good conference held at the Twitter headquarters last summer. Park, as part of the Leadership class, was invited by Assistant Principal Mike White to attend the event, where he learned different ways to utilize social media in order to implement change. It is there, in a tiny room surrounded by a crowd of advocates, that Park drew inspiration for Society Peas.
At first, Society Peas was meant to be an individual project. Park planned to interview students from his grade and profile their experiences through a series of posts. His first feature was on sophomore Rachel Millar, an individual with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had coped with undiagnosed feelings of restlessness and anxiety for years. A month later in October, a second post went up, describing sophomore Michael Sorooshian’s encounters with xenophobia.
It is during this time, with two months left in the semester and finals quickly approaching by, that Park decided to take a little break. Sophomore Forrest Leung, noticing the account’s sudden inactivity, messaged Park, expressing his desire to work with him on the project and take things to the next level.
“I had a lot of free time so I asked [Park] if I could help him out with [Society Peas],” Leung said. “I also wanted to get to know people a little better, and it seemed like a fun process so I offered to help him.”
Park agreed to Leung’s proposal, glad that he had a partner to grow his account with. Today, the two continue working on their initiative. Together, they reach out to students together, contact them for interviews and photograph the students.
To further promote his project, Park recently incorporated leadership
students into the initiative. Like Leung, they gather possible sources, those possessing a multitude of unique anecdotes, and request to interview them. The team hopes that in doing this, their posts will serve as inspiration for a wider and larger demographic.
“We want to raise awareness of all the different types of people in MVHS and what they’re going through,” Leung said. “A lot of the times, we don’t get to know people just by looking at them, so these posts give you a direct connection.”
Above all, both Park and Leung seek to unite the MVHS community through their shared experiences. For Park especially, the most rewarding part about this is highlighting the diversity of the school.
“The best part about all this is seeing how diverse MVHS is,” Park said. “Not in the sense of nationality or race, but diverse in the number of problems and experiences we have even though we tend to live in this bubble where everything is perfect.”