2004-04-28 Lakeshore Press Students take step toward racial acceptance

Students take step toward racial acceptance
Lakeshore Press

Racism is a problem that energetic, idealistic kids can solve.

That’s the premise behind Calling All Colors, a racial unity project sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance that has touched thousands of Ottawa and Allegan county middle schools students since 1996.

A total of 156 students from nine area middle schools shared their steps toward building racial acceptance during Calling All Colors spring conference Tuesday at Grand Valley State University.

“It’s always a great day,” said Rachelle Howe, who has advised the Calling All Colors group at Grand Haven’s White Pines Middle school for six years. “This has helped spread the message of accepting others who are different through our school and students’ families.”

Highlights of the White Pines’ Calling All Colors group’s efforts this year include raising $250 for LEDA, taking a field trip to San Chez restaurant and Rosa Park Circle in Grand Rapids, and sponsoring a May 14 performance of Biakuye, an African unity band and a African storyteller.

The 15 students in the White Pines group also tried to establish a pen pal relationship with students attending a school in Soweto, South African, which was instrumental in overturning Apartheid.

Unfortunately, the Soweto students don’t have access to reliable technology, so correspondence had to revert to “snail mail” and some of the White Pines students’ letters were returned as “undeliverable” months after they had been sent, Howe said.

The Calling All Colors group from West Ottawa’s Macatawa Bay School, advised by Hoa Nguyen, had a successful year by teaming up with their school’s Honors Choir.

The two groups wrote a musical adaptation of “The Ugly Duckling,” a story which illustrates the unsightliness of discrimination, and performed it for appreciative crowds at four West Ottawa elementary schools.

The club also sponsored a student vs. teacher basketball game which raised $300, which students donated to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.

The Calling All Colors group at Holland’s West Middle School participated in the Teaching Tolerance organizations’ “Mix It Up Day,” in which participating students sit with classmates who are outside their peer group during lunch.

The West Middle School group also held an international education day, organized a school-wide observance of Black History Month, and wrote away to different counties to collect information on their cultures. The group is Advised by Karen Legg.

“Calling All Colors gives students permission to get out of their clique and get to know lots of other students,” said Bob Medellin, who advises the group at Holland’s East Middle School. “It makes a difference.”

Students participated in various large group and small group activities during the daylong conference, including a tolerance-building role playing exercise by a Diversity Theater group.