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Ignore ‘judge-y people’ and celebrate your uniqueness, students say


Flags, colors, linked hands and words of acceptance and love came together as creative expressions at Kraft Meadows Middle School, where students created art to represent kindness, diversity and anti-bullying.

Sixth-grader Adrian Heiser created the rainbow and heart piece she said means “love is love”

Thirty-one students entered artwork into the schools’ first Diversiprize, for which, in true ArtPrize style that inspired it, students and staff members voted on what pieces best reflect themes of diversity.

They narrowed entries down to a top 10, and final three. First prize when to eighth grader Evalynn Schlett, second prize to seventh-grader Dylan Meduna and third-prize to sixth-grader Harleigh Mansfield.

The sixth- through-eighth-grade Diversity Council and Leadership Council came together to create and run the competition with the idea of portraying diversity through art. All students were invited to participate, said counselor Kelly Green, who advises Diversity Council.

Sixth-grader Emily Sorstokke says her anti-bullying piece shows pain caused by hurtfulness

“All of these art pieces, in every one of them, there’s something different. They all are diverse and they are all about diversity,” said sixth-grader Alexa Pearson, a member of the Diversity Council and sixth-grade Leadership Council.

Students cast their votes, checking out the colorful pieces that hung in the school’s commons area. Many included messages such as “Be the reason someone smiles today,” “The world is better together” and “Diversity is the one thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”

For Diversiprize, awards were given for popcorn gift baskets from Cosmic Candy in Woodland Mall. The competition ties in with the Meemic Foundation’s Meemic Masterpieces Art Contest — for which the artwork will also be entered — vying for a $300 art supplies grant and Chromebooks.

Seventh-grader Dylan Meduna’s Hulk picture took 2nd prize

OK to Be You

The Diversity Council currently involves 42 students who meet bimonthly to plan activities that promote diversity, including creating symbols of their heritage, hosting a carnival in connection with cognitively impaired students and working with senior citizens at an adult daycare facility.

“These kids have the biggest hearts in the school because they want to celebrate the fact that we are all unique and different,” Green said.

Embracing differences leads to students feeling cared for, she added. “I really think, in this day and age, it continues to be important that each and every student feels valued.”

Students agreed.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are. Love is love, no matter what.” — sixth-grader Adrian Heiser

Seventh-grader Jonathan Collins’ piece shows diversity of birds

“It’s OK to be diverse and be different,” said sixth-grader Addie Ropa. “In middle school, it’s hard with judge-y people, but it’s OK to be different and stick out.”

Seventh-grader Jonathan Collins said his detailed drawing of bird species shows parrots, hummingbirds, eagles and flamingos living in harmony. “We are just like them,” he said. “Each one of us is different.”

Sixth-grader Adrian Heiser’s piece depicted two human figures, one black and one white, holding a heart in front of a rainbow background.

“Love is love no matter what race, gender, biology or history you have,” Adrian said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are. Love is love, no matter what.”

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Celebrating Diversity through Art

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Words are cheap when your actions do not support them. May be your lack of diversity does not give you the experience to comprehend true acceptance.i had to pull my kid’s out of Caledonia schools because they were not acceptable, in fact the were bullied, shunned and called names because they were different. For four years we tried to make it work to no avail. They reach the point where they hated to go to school and elementary school should be fun. Our daughter graduated from Caledonia High and was well accepted, but of course she was blonde haired and blue eyes,not different. So don’t pat yourselfs on the back just yet, you still have a ways to go.

    • I’m sorry your family had this kind of experience. We all have a long way to go to understand diversity and behave with acceptance. My hope is that every one of these kinds of experiences in the article gets us that much closer. Thank you for reading.

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