#WhyYouMatter: School-wide Art Project

The following was written by Principal Michael J. Kapolka of Chelsea High School in Michigan and was originally posted to MASSP’s blog found at www.mymassp.com. Chelsea High School’s students and educators felt they needed to do something after tragedy struck their school. Their ideas were partially formed while returning home from the Jostens Renaissance Back to School Tour Stop in Michigan this past fall.

Since 1993, our school community has experienced a school shooting, eleven student deaths (including four in 2000), a chemical spill, building fire and a tornado. In Chelsea, I have felt that we have done a sound job at managing crises, but ultimately, we have been lacking in the area of supporting students and staff once the dust has settled.

Most recently, we lost three students this past academic year (one car accident and two suicides) and it greatly impacted our stakeholders, most notably, our students and staff.


In response to these tragedies, and in an effort to help address our grieving community, our two art teachers and counseling department started a campaign called #WhyYouMatter. In short: each student and staff member in our school was asked the simple question: “Why do you matter?” Then they were photographed holding their answer. This is the very short version of a much longer story. As building Principal, it has been amazing to watch our students take ownership of this project over the past six months. It has positively impacted our kids in a way that I did not foresee when we started this endeavor back in September. Every student and staff member (teacher, secretary, custodial staff, etc.) has been photographed with their saying. In total, we have 958 images, which we printed and hung in our building on Sunday, January 15. Then, on Tuesday, January 17, we revealed the project to the community.


Ultimately, our goal is to share our story with other schools so that they have the opportunity to take this project and implement it if there is a potential need. We have been grateful for all of the positive community support that we have received since unveiling our #WhyYouMatter campaign to our parents and students two weeks ago. In just a short period of time, we are finding that the power of a positive movement resonates with others outside of our community.



For more information about Chelsea High School’s #WhyYouMatter project, please visit www.whyyoumatter.org. The website aims to further tell this positive story, through both words and images. Here is additional media coverage of the campaign:

Channel 7 Detroit Now Coverage


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