Rick Muniz introduces himself to a crowd of 165 middle school students by playing a kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll riff. Urgent whispers spread like wildfire through the audience at the knickerbocker Theatre because this does not commute.
According to the program, this guy is a principal. “I play a riff to show the kids something about stereotyping,” said Muniz, principal of Holland’s Longfellow 4-5 Focus School, who delivered the keynote address at the Calling All Colors conference on Tuesday. “They assume principals don’t like rock or play power chords, but here I am. “The truth is,” Muniz added, “there’s more to everybody than people expect.”
The twice-a-year conference is designed to inspire students at 10 middle schools I Ottawa and Muskegon countries to help their schools embrace diversity. Activities at the daylong workshops heighten teen’s awareness of stereotyping and its effects, and provide a safe place to discuss feelings about race relations in their schools and communities, and talk about ways to effectively confront biases.
“Live beyond what people expect of you and don’t let them pigeonhole you into a box,” Muniz said. “Here today we have a whole room of young people who aren’t slackers. They aren’t sitting back. They’re making plans for promoting diversity and understanding at their schools.”