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Highland Park High School junior’s video project spreads happiness

Highland Park High School junior’s video project spreads happiness
Posted: May 14, 2021
Categories: KSDE
Author: Ann Bush

EDITOR’S NOTE: Social-emotional growth and character development are an integral part of the Kansas State Board of Education’s and the Kansas State Department of Education’s vision for education: Kansas leads the world in the success of each student. Jaqui Ortega, a 17-year-old junior at Highland Park High School in Topeka, is a great student example of how social-emotional and character development is being embedded in schools across Kansas.

TOPEKA — In a world that recently has been filled with so many struggles and challenges, Jaqui Ortega wanted to acknowledge the beauty all around her. She found it in the halls of her high school in southeast Topeka – and she is sharing it with the world.

The Highland Park High School junior recently created a video highlighting the beauty of her classmates, and it has gone viral. The video, found on the school’s student newspaper Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=283826493333511), started out as a monthly newspaper project for the 17-year-old journalism/yearbook student.

“I was thinking, ‘What can I do for this month?’ I saw this video on YouTube, and I decided to just go around and make people happy,” she said.

The YouTube video Jaqui drew inspiration from was of someone telling others they were beautiful. Jaqui thought it was great idea - it would cover her project for the month of April and make people feel good at the same time. Her journalism teacher, Steve Berklund, wasn’t so sure.

“I thought it sounded kind of awkward,” Berklund said. “It turned out super well. I had no idea it was going to be so big. I thought it would get a couple hundred views.”

Jaqui thought the same.

They were both wrong.

“We do stories all of the time,” Jaqui said. “They get 20 likes. I had no idea it was going to be so big. It’s the biggest video on our page.”

In just a few weeks, the video has received more than 200 likes, has been shared more than 145 times and has been viewed nearly 9,500 times.

Jaqui’s video captures the reactions of classmates, teachers and staff members as she tells them they are beautiful. She received many different reactions – from tears to nervous giggles and all-out laughter.

“It’s always been my goal to make others happy,” Jaqui said.

And she does, Berklund said.

“Jaqui is an exceptional student with a tremendous vision of what she wants to do,” he said. “I’m super proud of her. Highland park is super proud of her.”

Jaqui has a lot on her plate. She has five siblings – 18, 11, 9, 3 and 2, works 20 to 30 hours per week and is in theater and choir. She also is a cheerleader, serves on the student council and will be school president next year. The talented teen plays six instruments – flute, piccolo, violin, piano, guitar and ukulele.

“Music has always been my goal,” she said.

After graduation from Highland Park, Jaqui plans to attend the University of Kansas in Lawrence to major in music therapy.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other social challenges, have impacted students socially and academically, Jaqui and Berklund said.

“Our old normal isn’t normal anymore,” Jaqui said. “People need some uplifting right now – even me. It’s been hard and challenging. People need positivity. I hope the video has helped.”

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