2008-10-14 Grand Rapids Press "Holland diversity conference reaches teens"

Holland diversity conference reachs teens
Grand Rapids Press



Casey Wilson showed off her new reggae dance moves Tuesday.

The Zeeland West High School senior was dancing at the Calling All Colors diversity awareness conference at Hope College. The event was co-sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and the college.

Wilson learned her reggae moves from Macatawa Bay School eighth-grader Daina Robinson, who grew up in Jamaica and whose family was the target of a racial slur spray-painted on the driveway of their Park Township home in August.

"I think we need to develop a respect for different cultures and different people," said Wilson, a 17-year-old who is a founding member of the Calling All Colors group in Zeeland which formed after last year's conference.

"We're all one world, and we have so much to offer each other if we just open our minds and hearts," she said.

Creating such perspective is the reason the conference was added last year for high school students. The program was offered to middle schoolers the past 13 years.

"The goal of Calling All Colors is to help create an appreciation for diversity among students, which is very important because of the ethnic diversity of our area," said Sarah Salguera, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance's program director.

About 200 students from Grand Haven, Holland, Holland Christian, Spring Lake, Wavecrest Career Academy, Zeeland and Muskegon spent the day discussing diversity and how to create programs and events at their schools to increase understanding and awareness.

"Zeeland has a significant lack of diversity, and we want to wake our school and community up to the importance of being part of a much wider world of ethnicity and cultures," Wilson said.

A diversity assembly and a cultural week are planned in the Zeeland school district.

Last year in Zeeland, Calling All Colors sponsored a diversity orientation booth for freshmen and made a presentation on diversity to the school board.

On Tuesday, aside from discussing diversity, participants learned dances from around the world, including Reggae, Brazilian Capoeira (a combination of martial arts defense moves and aerobics) and Micronesian Hula.

"I learned to do Reggae dancing in the Caribbean, and this was a great chance to share my love of these dances with other students from other schools," Daina Robinson said.

"For me, coming to Calling All Colors helps increase my understanding of people and different cultures. I love learning about new cultures."

Grand Haven High School senior Danielle Voorhies was attending her fourth Calling All Colors conference, having attended three while a Whilte Pines Middle School student.

"I've found I have a greater appreciation for things and people who aren't just like me," she said.

"I think that's very important in this world."