Students mark moment of peace and unity at Maryvale High School

Students and faculty at Maryvale High School linked arms in a show of unity. (Photo by Paola Garcia/Cronkite News)

Students held up signs promoting peace and unity at a Maryvale High School rally on the athletic field. (Photo by Paola Garcia/Cronkite News)

Students and staff linked arms in a show of unity at Maryvale High School. (Photo by Paola Garcia/Cronkite News)

After a rally that ranged from love for people and community to the promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence, students and staff at Maryvale High School went back to their lives. (Photo by Paola Garcia/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Jaqueline Guerra walked into the middle of the athletic field at Maryvale High School, surrounded by ribbons of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors seeking peace and unity in troubled times. After the cheers died down, she spoke.

“We’re just here to unite as a school and community,” Guerra said. “If we come together we can accomplish magnificent things. Love sees no color, no gender. Love is truly blind.”

Phoenix Union High School District arranged to have every school on Friday to showcase caring and connection during complicated times.

“This event is about unity and how we come together as one,” Maryvale Principal Manuel Silvas said to a crowd of students, faculty and staff.

Silvas said the event was to share their support of Maryvale’s sister school, Trevor Browne High School, where a student died over the weekend. It was for the Texas victims of Hurricane Harvey. It was for the white nationalist march and counter protests in Charlottesville, the uncertainty over the future of DACA as President Donald Trump decides whether to keep the program for children of immigrants who attend college or get jobs and the furor over police response to protesters after last week’s Trump rally in Phoenix.

“We’re promoting peace, compassion and acceptance,” Silvas said.

The district conducted similar events to promote “peace and unity,” for its 31,00 students and staff, according to a district statement. Some presentations happened in a hallway or elsewhere inside a district school. Maryvale was the only one to conduct its event outside, bathed under the heat of a mid-morning sun.

Students, lining up by class along the track field, with freshmen at the front and seniors at the back, held aloft signs saying, “Acceptance,” and “Equality.”

Guerra, a senior who is a historian for the school’s student government group, choked up as she spoke.

“Coming together with love, we can stand up to all the hate and division and can be strong as one,” Guerra said.

She handed over the microphone to her classmate, Leslie Reyes.

Reyes recited a part of the Declaration of Independence that promises equality to all Americans. She said that promise is being strained.

“We are being polluted by hate and division,” said Reyes, a senior who also is a student government representative.

“We stand here united today for love and acceptance. We may have our differences but at the end of the day we’re all brothers and sisters,” she said.

“Love each other, be supportive and accepting. Do not let anyone tell you that you are anything less but a precious individual,” Reyes said, as tears ran down her face.

At the end of the rally, everyone linked arms to show they are united as a family.

Then they walked quietly away, back to their lives.