AHWAHNEE – Alli Patterson is many things to many people. She’s a loving daughter, a protective sister, and a good friend. Alli is a student, a photographer, a writer, and an activist. If there’s one thing Alli knows how to do — and actually, there are lots — it’s express herself.
“I express myself through everything I do: music, photography, writing, the way I dress, the way I talk, act, wear makeup, etcetera,” says the Ahwahnee resident. “It’s not hard for me to express myself at all.”
As a student splitting her time more or less between both Evergreen and Yosemite High School, Alli takes every opportunity for self-expression. When the students went on a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Alli snapped a ton of pics. Capturing time the digital way is one of Alli’s favorite pursuits.
“I took the picture with my phone’s camera and didn’t use too much technique. I just took multiple shots and kept the one I liked the most.”
“It was super exciting! I didn’t expect it. I was rewarded with lots of candy and a hacky-sack.”
This passion for photography has become a go-to hobby for the creatively eclectic 16 year old.
“Nature is my primary focus, and my pets. A few times I have done mini-photoshoots of my friends. I love photographing the most in spring because of the gorgeous flowers, and everything is so green and pretty. I also love the winter, because the snow makes everything look so magical.”
Alli says she loves to read almost as much as she loves to take pictures. Her favorite subjects include supernatural things. She’s a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King. She likes nonfiction, too, and when it comes to writing, Alli is most comfortable expressing herself with nonfiction essays.
That’s how she came to win an essay writing contest that she didn’t even really enter. Alli’s brother Jeff is autistic. In his first year of high school, Alli found out he was being treated badly by some other school kids, and used her mighty pen to let people know what she was thinking.
Alli wrote, “My brother is autistic. He is a freshman at YHS and lately I have seen multiple videos of him on Snapchat and Instagram of things people are making him do, or things he is doing that he does not realize are wrong. Jeff does not realize that people are making fun of him, he things they are laughing with him — not at him. He only wants to fit in an have friends, and you people out there taking videos of him and laughing at him know exactly who you are and you disgust me.
“When most people think of the word bullying, they think of someone calling another person ugly, or taking about them behind their backs. But did it occur to you that posting videos of anyone, especially a disabled kid, without their knowledge and making fun of them is also bullying?
“I want you to think about this for a while: imagine you have a sibling — does not matter if they are disabled or not — and one of your friends comes up to you in class and shows you a video on social media of your brother doing whatever it is that he is doing, and people are laughing at him. And the sibling things they are laughing with them. Doesn’t that thought break your heart?”
Alli’s post went mountain-viral, and once the school heard what was going on, they took steps to correct the situation and bring the kids involved to justice. In the end, Alli was recognized by the local service organization Sierra Sunrise Rotary for her role in speaking up for Jeff and helping to lay down new standards for local teens on social media. Expression is a powerful thing.
What’s the next plan of expression for Alli Patterson? On Sunday, July 19, she’ll be hitting the streets of San Francisco for the historic AIDS Walk, a 10K fundraising event in Golden Gate Park. It benefits HIV/AIDS programs and services throughout the Bay Area. The event holds a special place in Alli’s heart, as well as that of her mom, Rima Runtzel.
“During my senior year of high school, on December 26, 1993, my father did of AIDS,” Rima explains. “He was diagnosed ten years prior to that — a long time to live with AIDS in those days. When I was ten years old, my twin sister and I were told of his illness. Almost two years ago, I connected with The Recollectors, a group of people who have lost a parent or parents to AIDS, and it has changed my life. We all have different stories, but are also so much the same. We all felt alone, and now we are together. This team is in honor of all my fellow Recollectors.”
It would seem that Alli Patterson comes by at least some of her tendency toward self-expression from her mama Rima. Some of it. Mostly, it’s just Alli. She’ll be walking in solidarity with her mom in honor of the grandfather she never met, but whom she has come to respect.
After San Francisco, Alli will spend the rest of the summer doing what she loves to do: taking pictures, communicating electronically with her long-distance boyfriend, reading, and having fun. When school resumes in August, Alli will be back at YHS part time, practicing and performing with the elite school choral group Chamber Singers, and spending most of her time at Evergreen, which she adores.
“I love it, it’s absolutely amazing. I love being able to work at my own pace and not having the stress of having to turn in something new each day. It’s difficult for me to have very short deadlines, so turning in all my work once a week has been a blessing on my stress levels. And I would like to give a shout out to my teacher, Cindy Happ-Jett, and the other Evergreen teacher, Mary Beth Harrison.”
There’s probably one thing Alli Patterson won’t do, and that’s hold back, which is just the way it should be.
Here’s the rest of Alli’s Facebook-post-turned-essay:
“If you are one of these people who has posted a video – delete it. If you are one of these people who sits there and laughs at the kid — go up to them and tell them to stop, because what they are doing is inappropriate and that is now how you should be making friends. BE HIS FRIEND, NOT HIS BULLY. If you see someone making fun of him, go stop them. There is nothing funny about bullying, there is nothing funny about taking a video of someone without their consent and posting it online for thousands of people to see and make fun of them along with you. There is nothing cool about this. I am putting my foot down and will no longer sit quietly about, while slimey amoebas go and do this to my little brother. My brother should not be the laughing stock of the school. Think about your actions and their effects on people. “