Liam Ball is a senior at Meadowdale High School whose accomplishments include organizing the school’s first diversity assembly and an illustrious wrestling career. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Meadowdale High senior asks peers to evaluate privilege

LYNNWOOD — The Meadowdale High School principal calls senior Liam Ball, 18, “an activist, not a complainer.” Ball’s passion for justice and equity has made him a leader among his peers.

Question: You recently coordinated a Diversity Assembly at school. What was it all about?

Answer: It was an assembly that was different from assemblies we normally do. It was something I did over the summer at an ASB camp and something other schools do. We wanted to have it make a point, rather than just “talk about diversity.” So we talked about privilege and if you come from a place of privilege — whether it’s race, sexual orientation, or your gender, your socio-economic background.

We had different students speak. One of them was this girl from Iran who had to move all over. … It’s something people don’t realize that a lot of people go through.

Q: It sounds like you put a lot of thought into this.

A: I would say that I’ve had a lot of conversations at school — and I love my school — but I feel a lot of kids don’t understand having white privilege or having privilege as a man. As a white man, I do feel I have certain advantages. Recognizing you have that and doing something to empower other kids is important.

Q: How does a teen go about empowering others?

A: I think one of the best things to do if you’re a person of a lot of privilege is to recognize it — and that’s what the assembly was about. This is how our society is and works, and maybe it shouldn’t. Let’s recognize it first and talk about it, because it’s not something that’s talked about a lot.

Q: You’re the ASB vice president and captain of the wrestling team. What else are you involved in?

A: I’m the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. The Gay-Straight Alliance was dying out … So I volunteered to do a clubs fair for it and liked it, so it continued. That club was a huge part of the assembly. (At club meetings) we sit together and talk about politics and about things that can make our school better. (Now that the assembly is done) we’re talking about a clothing drive for LGBT youth.

Q: You also serve on the school’s Equity Team, which includes the administration and staff.

A: We have representatives from the clubs that represent culture and diversity. I represent the Gay-Straight Alliance. … We split into different groups and talked about how to make our school a better place.

Q: These can be difficult topics. How do you approach someone who maybe isn’t receptive?

A: My biggest thing is I save my anger for the wrestling mat. I try to stay calm and have a conversation and have them understand. … After the assembly, I was having a conversation with kids and they said, “I understand now.” That made me feel really good.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m not sure yet. I’ve had a few schools look at me for wrestling. … I do like Simon Fraser. My brother goes up there for wrestling. I do want to go to a four-year university and study probably political science. It’s something my brother is doing and he loves it. We have the most amazing conversations about it. It’s something my dad did. He’s a union organizer.

Political science is one of those things you want to get a master’s with or go to law school. I don’t know what I want to do yet. But studying that I think is really interesting and something I want to do.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: I would honestly say my wrestling coach, Brian Boardman. He’s a teacher at the middle school. He’s a huge inspiration. (He’s taught me) in a way, not to take no for an answer, to find a way to do what you want to do. If you set goals, you can always attain them if you try really hard…

Q: How does it feel to be at this stage in life?

A: It feels pretty cool. I’m definitely excited for the next four years. It’s a little shocking, thinking I have to go somewhere else, because I’ve gotten so used to Meadowdale the last four years. But I look forward to going to a four-year and getting my degree, and possibly moving to Canada if I get in to Simon Fraser.

Q: What advice would you give a teen starting high school?

A: I would say go out of your comfort zone. High school is all about hanging out with your friends and staying in your own little group. Kids need to get out of their comfort zone, and aspire to talk to more people and understand what other kids are at your school. … Get to know new people.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3432.

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