Student finds voice through writing

When Hannah Kaufmann, 16, returned to school after winter break, she was accused of breaking Beaverton High School’s dress code for wearing a tank top.

A physical education teacher demanded Hannah change her shirt before weightlifting class, and she begrudgingly wore a classmate’s T-shirt for the period.

Why she got in trouble for wearing a garment made for exercise puzzled the sophomore.

“I’ve been someone who’s always asked, ‘Why?’ ” Hannah said.

The incident in the locker room ignited that same thinking process, and ultimately sparked a passion for journalism that allowed Hannah to research events and express what she found important.

These questions about Beaverton High School’s dress code propelled Hannah to do the thing she knew how to do best: write.

Hannah published her first article in the school’s online news publication, The Hummer, in May 2022, which included an interview with the teacher who required her to change clothing. The article drew more 150 clicks on the school’s website and strengthened her desire to write more.

Hannah published another article one month later on protests at Beaverton High School against the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Hannah wasn’t always so quick to ask questions. She found her voice in a training room decorated with a black, white and gold dragon with red flames.

Hannah’s parents enrolled her in an Indonesian self-defense class at Naga Martial Arts in Beaverton after she experienced a tumultuous transition from a small Jewish private school to public elementary school. Naga means “dragon” in Indonesian.

Hannah practiced the kiai – short exclamations to enhance power, often seen in martial arts – to raise her voice and boost her inner sense of power.

“I was forced to speak louder, and I’ve been speaking louder since,” Hannah said.

Hannah also expressed her voice through creative writing. She entered a “write-alike” competition in the fourth grade, where students were directed to write a paragraph like Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of “Little House on the Prairie” and other acclaimed work.

After a round of anonymous voting, Hannah won the competition and a copy of one of Wilder’s books, which included an inscription from her teacher.

She remembers this competition as one of her first memories of writing and a big win against a fourth-grade adversary. Since then, Hannah said she has expanded past creative writing and has worked on poetry and plans to write a song one day.

Hannah wants to continue using journalism to express herself and keep her community informed. She accepted an editor role at her school news publication for the upcoming school year, when she will be a junior. She also plans to use her passion for writing to start a professional career in journalism.

“Whatever I end up doing, I know I’ll be happy writing,” Hannah said.

– Suzan Nuri, Beaverton Early College High School

This story was produced by student reporters as part of the High School Journalism Institute, an annual collaboration among The Oregon / OregonLive, Oregon State University and other Oregon media organizations. For more information or to support the program, go to oregonlive.com/hsji.

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