2007-10-17 Grand Rapids Press "High school students celebrate diversity"

High school students celebrate diversity
By: Dave Muller
The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND – After 11 years helping middle school students learn about diversity, the Calling All Colors project now is working with high-schoolers.

About 140 students from nine Lakeshore area high schools gathered Tuesday at Hope College to figure out ways to embrace and share ethnic and racial diversity. The gathering was co-sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and Hope.
“Our goal is to eventually have high schoolers be role models to middle schoolers,” said Ortencia Bos, program director for Calling All Colors.

The inaugural conference for the high school students included discussing stereotypes and other race-related issues, brainstorming ways to promote ethnic openness and experiencing different cultures.

A group of students from Zeeland east and West high schools decided to take a more subtle approach toward boosting multicultural understanding, opting to use their individual influence.

“It wouldn’t work if you force in on them,” said 15-year-old Zeeland East student Mario Navarrete, underscoring high group’s approach. “You should be a leader and break out of your cliques.”

Other schools taking part included Grand Haven, Holland, Holland Christian, Spring Lake, West Ottawa and Muskegon high schools and the Wavecrest Career Academy, an alternative school operated by the Ottawa Area Intermediate School

“If we were to do this on our own, it wouldn’t have been as successful,” said Christine Sosnowski, an 18-year-old Muskegon High School student.

“It’s great to have this help.”

The students will return next spring to Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Township campus to compare efforts.

Middle schoolers involved with Calling All Colors have written stories celebrating culture in school newsletters and brought in musicians to play ethnic music. More than 3,000 middle school students from 14 districts have taken part, and that program

Bos has hopes the high school program will find success.

“Even if one school can take the message back to their school, we’ll consider that a success,” Bos said