Juniors Simi Purcell and David Rogers have brought a Turning Point USA chapter to Blake—the school’s only politically-oriented club— to form connections between conservative and liberal students in a positive environment.
Purcell says the organization provides events for teens throughout the year, allowing them to listen to conservative speakers who promote free speech and individual liberty.
According to its website, Turning Point USA is a “nonprofit organization whose mission is to create a conservative grassroots network amongst high schoolers and college students across the country.”
“It gives [teenagers] a place to meet and shows them people who are successful and conservative and that there are opportunities despite your political beliefs,” Purcell says.
The pair hope their chapter will bring new opportunities to Blake and start a discussion between conservative and liberal students here. Rogers adds, “For liberal students, they’re welcome to sit in on our meetings…to see that [conservatives are] not bad people. And [the club is] also to help conservative kids here that haven’t vocalized their opinion or are afraid to speak out find other conservative students to be friends with.”
Purcell expresses that she hopes the club will remove the stigma surrounding conservative students. “There are normal students here who you talk to and work with in class, [who] are also conservative. Yes some of them support Donald Trump, and yes some of them are pro-gun control, and yes some of them are anti-abortion, and they’re normal people and they see you in the same way,” she adds. “We just ask you for the same respect and treatment.”
Purcell and Rogers say that some of the attitudes they allude to have impacted their relationships with friends and family. Rogers notes, “People who I’m just classmates or acquaintances with have distanced themselves because they see me from the outside and they don’t really know me as a person or as a close friend.”
Purcell expresses that people began defining her by her political beliefs after she started vocalizing her opinions and posting on social media. She notes that even some of her family members have stopped talking to her. “They see that as such a big thing about you. [It’s like] it’s not just your political beliefs, it’s you as a person and there are some of my close friends who [now] see me differently.”
Purcell says that many jump to conclusions about her because of her political identity, but she urges people to refrain from doing so. “I do support the president,” she says. “[But] I’m not a sheep. I don’t just follow him blindly and I don’t praise every single thing he does.”
Purcell says she disagrees with a number of President Trump’s policies. “One of the things that I previously agreed with the president on was him taking transgender people out of the military. [However,] there are people who are fighting for our country who are transgender and that’s something that we should be proud of.”
Rogers also says he strays from mainstream conservative thought on some issues. “I notice that a lot of conservatives just believe the same thing, [but] I believe that you should be able to be pro-choice,” he says in reference to the abortion debate.
Both Rogers and Purcell express that they wish there was an influence from other political ideologies in their classes.“Almost everyone in class has the same opinion and it feels like you’re kind of an outlier,” Purcell says.
“[Lessons don’t] really feel inclusive at all,” Rogers says. “I guess that the teachers are already being taught or told that they shouldn’t express their political views, so just follow the rules.”
Overall, both students express their desires to bridge the gaps dividing conservatives and liberals. “I don’t think you should base your friendships off what another person thinks,” says Rogers. “If we always went through life like that, we would only be with the people that are exactly like us.”
”I think that we should try to see if [liberals and conservatives] can find common ground.”David Rogers
The students’ Turning Point USA chapter, sponsored by math teacher Timothy Phelps, meets Wednesdays at lunch in Mr. Phelps’ room.