SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara High School students are leading a school and community campaign to get people to follow coronavirus health guidelines, like wearing a mask.
The campaign is called "Don Your Mask," a nod to the school's mascot, the Dons. About 30 students recently created artistic posters as part of a creative contest to spread the 'Don Your Mask' message.
Three poster designs were picked as winners this week, with senior Maxine Borders winning first place. Sophomore Brianna Yanez won second place and senior Santiago Bailey-Musacchio took third place.
“It makes the message more personal when the people who you’re friends with and your peers and your fellow students are the ones who are sharing the message through art,” said Borders.
"Maybe someone's not going to listen to an older person or a newscast," said Santa Barbara High School principal Elise Simmons. "But they might listen to another youth. If to wear your mask means to be spirited, and to have Dons spirit and to have Dons pride, then why not [wear a mask]?"
Simmons says the campaign came about after some students made choices that increase the risk of virus spread--while many others want a return to campus and normalcy as soon as possible.
“Instead of just continuing to lament about and worry about the youth that aren’t making good choices, I decided to create a campaign that was positive and encouraging and motivating,” Simmons said.
Sophomore Hattie Ugoretz won the campaign's video contest after she wrote and performed an original song on her guitar. She sings about donning a mask and washing hands, while also including the number of lives COVID-19 has taken in California and across the country.
"Because the numbers are unfortunately so, so high, just saying them doesn't even have the same effect anymore because people can’t even really comprehend what it even means,” she said. “I thought that if [the song] was in their heads, they would have to listen to what it was saying and think about what they are doing and what they could be doing.”
Yanez's poster features a girl wearing a mask proudly. She says masks can be a form of self-expression.
“She's feeling good about herself, and I feel like I want that energy with other people with wearing masks,” Ynez said.
Bailey-Musacchio repurposed one of his previous illustrations of the Dons mascot in his poster, adding a mask this time. His poster boasts a bold font and the school's green and yellow colors.
"The idea, at least what I got, from the contest is that right now people aren't wearing masks because it's not 'cool' to wear a mask," he said. “But I know people really like school spirit. So I think if wearing masks is a school spirit thing, then they’re like ‘cool.’”
Simmons has high praise for the students who jumped into the campaign. She says they are already becoming leaders.
“Just listening to them and their perspective, and their ‘Why,' and it's all different,” she said. “It emphasizes that our youth are sometimes just more intelligent than us."
"Don Your Mask" is similar to the "Hope for Red Pledge" campaign being shared by students from schools across the South Coast. That pledge commits to following state health guidelines. The "red" references California's less restrictive red tier, which would allow schools to reopen in-person learning.