2003-10-15 Holland Sentinel Conference brings students together

Conference brings students together
Holland Sentinel

Nick Ruiz rushes onto the stage, flips and puts his hands in the air as the crowd applauds. Students dance in the aisles of Hope College’s Knickerbocker Theatre to the tune of “We are Family,” by Sister Sledge.

There were a lot of laughs and plenty of applause Tuesday in the amped-up theater that was the site of the eighth annual Calling All Colors Conference. Middle school students from across West Michigan converged on the Hope campus to talk about racism, discrimination and stereotypes and to practice tolerance and respect.

“It’s OK to be different,” said Rick Muniz, the keynote speaker and principal at Longfellow Elementary in Holland. “You got to be more than what people expect. We’re talking about not putting people inside a box.” Muniz warmed up the crowd with a few licks on his electric guitar and delivered an emotional speech.

But the students didn’t just listen to speeches-they danced, sang, made crafts and performed skits to help illustrate the many principles of tolerance. Ruiz, 12, a student at Holland West Middle School, walked up to a young lady during a morning workshop and asked if she’d like to go on a date. “You’re too short,” was the response. “That’s discrimination,” Ruiz’s friends chimed in.