Something we can all agree on


It was Wednesday afternoon and I had just been released from a grueling BC Calculus AP Exam. I was making my way down the 1200 hallway when I came across Yiorgos Giannetos, a senior known for his goofy sense of humor and entertaining antics.

He stopped my friend and me with a worried look on his face.

“Did you hear about Yuriy?” he asked us.

“No, what’s up? We were just taking the Calc exam with him,” I replied.

“Well, he’s being deported. They’re taking him away right now,” Yiorgos said.

I laughed awkwardly, not entirely sure how to respond to his peculiar joke. Although I didn’t quite see the punchline, I figured the mental strain of taking non-stop derivatives for four hours was preventing me from understanding Yiorgos’ profoundly clever deportation humor. I called him a liar and continued on my way to the attendance office. There, I was immediately surrounded by 10 classmates and Dr. Ryan McTague, all of whom were discussing Mr. Sharma’s e-mail, which explained how Yuriy’s father was in danger of being deported the next day, and the entire family was in danger of being deported and split apart.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

Not only was Yiorgos telling the truth, but somebody whom I saw on a daily basis was at risk of being exiled from the country and separated from his family.

Stuff like that doesn’t actually happen in The Land of the Free, does it?

My thoughts turned to Yuriy. Although we had several classes together I had never really said much to him, outside of joining in on the “Hi, Yuriy” chorus when my English teacher announced we had a new student at the beginning of the year. Now his entire future was in jeopardy.

These musings were interrupted by excited and purposeful chatter. My classmates were discussing a realistic plan of action to be implemented immediately: there were calls to be made, rallies to attend, letters to be sent. The campaign to save Yuriy had begun.

Over the next few hours I watched in awe as my classmates e-mailed congressmen, phoned Senator Dick Durbin’s office, made incessant calls to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and joined Yuriy and his family in a rally downtown. I logged on to Facebook to see dozens of Yuriy-tagged statuses, a “Supporters of the Tytla Family” group, nearly a hundred shares of the link to his petition and the link to his heart-wrenching letter in defense of his father. We were making a difference, 21st century style.

Later that night Yuriy posted that the rally was a success, and his father had been granted a one-year stay while the mess got sorted out. Never has a non-stolen-from-Tumblr status received so many likes.

So as the excitement died down, I was able to stop for a moment to think. And my only real thought was: what just happened?! A few hours ago me, Yuriy, and 30 other nerds were sitting in 1200 evaluating integrals: now his father had just narrowly avoided deportation? And why would they threaten to send Yuriy to one country and his parents to another? His family has lived in the United States for 10 years with no criminal record and Yuriy has been accepted into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s prestigious engineering program. Why in the world would they be a priority for deportation?

But equally shocking was the question of how a senior class that has literally never agreed on anything somehow effectively and incredibly mobilized behind one of their own in the span of five or six hours.

It’s no secret that our grade can barely even play a game of “Gotcha” without bombarding one another with rude Facebook comments in each one of the 12 “Senior Groups” on a weekly basis. So how in the world did we come together to play an integral role in securing the temporary freedom of an immigrant family?

The easiest answer, I suppose, is because there was simply nothing to argue about. Most issues these days carry with them enormous and daunting gray areas; this issue, however, was completely black and white.

I don’t think there are many people who, when posed with the question: “Should an innocent family that has been living in the United States for 10 years, be ruthlessly torn apart, sending an 18-year-old to a country whose language he doesn’t speak and customs he can’t remember?”, would answer with anything other than a resounding “um, no.”

So yes, it’s true: we may not agree on the level of inappropriateness that we should incorporate into our senior shirt, or whether or not every day for the rest of the year should be a Ditch Day, but when it comes down to it, none of that really matters. What matters is that we can agree that certain inalienable rights are truly worth fighting for. We can agree on what actions need to be taken and what lengths we are willing to go to prevent a serious injustice from occurring. We can agree that, when it comes to the safety and well-being of a fellow classmate, a fellow Viking and fellow American, we as a class and as a school will do all that is in our power to make sure he is granted the opportunities he deserves.

On Wednesday, we were a testament to the authentic virtue that humanity ultimately stands for. Our actions should serve as a reminder to a society so centered around conflict and hostility that basic human decency has the power to erase partisan boundaries.

Because what we all helped to accomplish was truly meaningful and profound, and its impact will resonate with the Tytla family for years to come. I was proud to be part of a movement, proud to be a senior at Niles North High School and proud to have at one point in my life said “Hi” to an 18-year-old as resilient and brave as Yuriy Tytla.