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Bend HS students unite to fight 'R-word'

By Joe Burns
Published On: Mar 06 2013 11:10:57 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 06 2013 11:11:58 PM CST

Bend High School students holds rally and march to raise awareness about use of "retard."

BEND, Ore. -

Bend High students joined together Wednesday for a rally to help get rid of the "R-word," a slang word for mental retardation.

The sixth annual rally helped to support people with intellectual disabilities and to promote the negative effects of the harmful word.

"I get really upset, said Celia Grijalva,organizer for the rally. "I just don't think people should be using that word, because it is offensive as any other word."

Grijalva's shirt says it all: "Spread the word to end the word."

Grijalva knows just how offensive the "R-word" is.

"It is offensive to people and their friends and family," Grijalva said. "And it's just another profanity people use, and it's not cool to use that word at all."

Grijalva is in charge of the Bend High Mentors Club, which assists students with intellectual disabilities and helps them learn to become independent and contributing members in society.

"She works really hard," said Malia Mills, a Bend High educational assistant. "She works with the students. Not only does she put the R-word Rally together, but she helps us with our sports classes. She helps us in the classroom, and she's the person behind the kids, really, helping them the most."

Students marched to Third and Greenwood in Bend, carrying banners. Their goal: to get students to sign up for the pledge.

"The pledge says that they will stop using the R-word in their vocabulary," Grijalva said. "And if that could happen, then everybody would be in a more accepting place, and people will learn what respect really is."

It's a word that almost all youth -- 92 percent, have heard someone use, with 86 percent of youth having heard the word used by their friends or other students at school, according to Special Olympics.

"By doing this, we've noticed overall it really stops being used as frequently," said Robert Tadjiki, a Life Skills teacher at Bend High. "Because it's just vernacular to say, like, 'That's dumb, that's stupid, that's retarded -- and they maybe aren't aware of what they are saying. But the word retard really does hurt peoples' feelings."

And Grijalva couldn't be any happier.

"There are people who will stop saying it," Grijalva said. "They will come up to me and they will say, 'I haven't said the R-word in five months' or something. And you just feel so good, because you are making a difference, even though it's so one person at a time."

Grijalva was introduced to the rally during her freshman year. She said it was so amazing to see the influence the rally had on students.

She says she going to continue her work next year, during her senior year, and later, when she goes to college.

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