2008-10-14 Holland Sentinel "Students gather for Calling All Colors"

Students gather for Calling All Colors
The Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —

Racial strife and prejudice are alive in 21st-century America, but each individual — including high school students — can make a difference.

That’s the message Aaron Hochhalter said he received at the 2008 Calling All Colors high school diversity conference Tuesday at Hope College.

“Many people wouldn’t admit that racism still exists today. There’s still stereotyping that goes on. People still experience this and it still hurts people,” said the Holland Christian High School senior.

Moments later, Hochhalter took the stage at Hope’s Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland where his team of students from 10 high schools performed a Philippine folkloric dance members had just learned from MIWorks! employee Jenny De Leon.

Participating schools
• Holland High School
• Holland Christian High School
• West Ottawa High School
• Zeeland East High School
• Zeeland West High School
• Wavecrest Career Academy
• Grand Haven High School
• Spring Lake High School
• Muskegon High School
• M-Tec (Muskegon) Public School

De Leon was one of several multicultural community members and Hope foreign exchange students to volunteer at the second annual conference geared for high-schoolers, said Sarah Salguera, program director for Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which has been hosting the diversity-awareness conference for middle-schoolers for 13 years.

Sally Woods, a social worker for West Ottawa schools, has volunteered to emcee the final presentations event at the Knickerbocker for several years running.

“It’s always been a middle-school program until last year and we thought, wouldn’t this be great at the high school level? All the kids have been great — they have lots of great ideas,” for raising racial awareness in their schools and communities, Woods said.

Each school group develops an action plan to take back to its school for implementation throughout the school year, with the help of two social-work interns recruited by the alliance — one each from Hope and Grand Valley State University — to follow up with the schools and assist in implementing the plans, said alliance Executive Director Gail Harrison.

The program was made possible by a number of donors, including a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, she said.

Woods said that imparting to the students the message that each one can make a difference is central to the program’s goals.

“One handshake starts a relationship,” she said to the gathered youth.

“One step starts a journey. Never underestimate the power of one.”