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Diversity training helps UCPS students break down barriers

Mikala Robinson, 16, a freshman at South Providence, at left, and Cameron Tripp, 18, a senior at Piedmont High School, are study partners during diversity training at Monroe High School. (Below) Monroe High School counselor Nichole Jackson talks to students about not “Judging the Book by its Content.” (Bottom) Dr. Rixon Campbell, director of Multicultural Student Affairs at Johnson C. Smith University, speaks to students at Monroe Middle School during recent diversity training.

Diversity isn’t just about the color of your skin. This concept was the topic of two daylong programs, one held for middle school students, the other for high school students.

Dr. Rixon Campbell, director of Multicultural Student Affairs at Johnson C. Smith University, was the keynote speaker at both events.

“Diversity and inclusion mean a whole lot of things,” Campbell told students. “It’s not just about skin color. It’s not just about race and race relations. It’s about diversity of thought, profession and beliefs.”

Event organizer Jaime Tejada, a teacher at Monroe High School, said the goal of the diversity training sessions is to spread the word as to the true meaning of diversity and to defeat the stereotypes.

“We want to give students the opportunity to interact with each other, learn from each other and defeat the stereotypes through those interactions,” Tejada said. “It’s a positive head start on what diversity is all about.”

Monroe High School counselor Nichole Jackson taught a class at both events titled, “Judging the Book by its Content.” She told students in her sessions they were “change agents.”

“We get so comfortable in our routines, and we get stuck in them,” Jackson said. “Stereotypes are just continuing. They just keep going and going. Some of these stereotypes are just ridiculous and who is breaking those stereotypes if it’s not someone standing up and taking a stand.”

Jackson’s workshops examined and then worked to break down stereotypes. At the end of her class, she asked students to offer their own personal contradictions to stereotypes.

“I’m African American, but I’m not ghetto,” said one student. “I’m Asian, but I don’t study all the time,” said another.

Cassie Chandler, an eighth grader at Parkwood Middle School, summed it up. “There are a lot of different cultures, but we’re all similar. We all have things in common. It’s really cool. I learned that you don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Mikala Robinson, 16, a freshman at South Providence, said she will be taking back the message, “Take time to know people. You don’t know what people are like until you take the time to get to know them.”

Cameron Tripp, 18, a senior at Piedmont High School, plans to attend Harvard on a football scholarship. He said the event was a great opportunity to break down some of the stereotypes and break down some of the borders that are separating all the students in Union County.

“This was a neat way for us to interact with people that we wouldn’t ordinarily get to interact with,” Tripp said. “Meeting and working with Mikala was really cool because she has an interesting story that people need to hear, and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to hear it if it weren’t for today.”

Monroe Middle School principal Dr. Mike Harvey said students today are exposed to much more diversity than his generation.

“We truly are a global society,” Harvey said. “As they move from eighth grade to ninth grade, I think it’s important that they have a new respect and appreciation for differences that exist in Union County. Then, I hope that extends beyond Union County to their own lives, as they enter college, the university and the workforce; that they have gained a respect for individual’s differences.”

Monroe High School Principal Brad Breedlove said diversity is not just about what is seen, but also about what is felt and how people interact.

“I hope the students walk away with not only having a good feeling about our county and being part of our county, but also with a little bit better understanding of the fact that there are differences out there,” Breedlove said. “I want them to think, ‘I may not agree with everyone, but I do respect everyone for what they have gone through and where they are and why they see things the way they do’.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: May 15, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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