The bottom line is: “You’re human,” said Willianna Paulino, a junior at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy.
Willianna played a Monopoly-style game that challenged students at Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s recent Calling All Colors Conference to consider life from different perspectives, including class, race and generational status.
“I learned stuff I really wouldn’t have thought of,” she said, adding that factors like race and class don’t make a person good or bad.
The Calling All Colors program was recently expanded from Lakeshore-area schools to Kent County through a partnership between LEDA and the Kent ISD because of demand from teachers and students, said Program Director Sarah Salguera.
About 150 students left the conference armed with information on ways to promote the program at their schools.
Tools for Creating Change
LEDA, a 17-year-old Holland-based organization, works to break down barriers to allow people of all ethnic backgrounds equal access and opportunity to be part of the community. Calling All Colors offers a year-long program that features two conferences and provides tools for increasing positive racial impacts for middle and high school students.
A safe place to talk about race is critical as a society. Talking about race is one of those issues we don’t have a lot of safe space to exploer building awareness and getting students engaged, Salguera said.
The conference at Aquinas College included students from Ottawa Hills, Thornapple Kellogg, Northview, Grand Rapids University Prep Academy, Union, Innovation Central, Forest Hills, Godfrey Lee, Comstock Park high schools and Kent Career Technical Center. Students participated in activities that helped break down stereotypes and focused on diversity education through quiz games and Jeopardy.
The conference was the kick-off to a year-long program to put lessons of diversity at schools, said Khayree Williams, LEDA youth coordinator. Students will work on four lesson plans this year to create a project and return for a spring conference to present what they learned.
“We want it to be student-driven, how they want to create change at their schools,” Salguera said.
In previous years, Lakeshore schools have created videos, held assemblies and read books with elementary students to engage them in conversations about race.
Northview High School seniors Maddie Lineberry and Rachel Vredevelt attended the recent Calling All Colors conference to return to their school a strong message about the need to respect everyone. The members of their school’s WAVE (Welcoming, Accepting, Valuing Everyone) club were excited to become involved,
“We’re hoping to bring back the lesson that everyone is different but we want to bring everybody together,” Maddie said. “No matter what race or color,” added Rachel.