2009-10-19 Holland Sentinel "Calling All Colors hosts 13th annual conference"

Calling All Colors hosts 13th annual conference
The Holland Sentinel

Ottawa County, MI —

Dozens of area middle schoolers gathered at the fall Calling All Colors Monday to discuss ways to tear down the walls of intolerance in their own worlds.

“What can we do to counter intolerance?” Sally Woods asked the students.

“Be tolerant,” came one answer from the audience.

Woods, a social worker for West Ottawa schools, facilitated the one-day gathering students from 10 area middle schools volunteered for. Area middle schools have participated since 1997. High school students, brought on board by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s Calling All Colors three years ago, will attend an identical conference today.

Monday, the students made plans to take back to their schools.

Holland eighth graders plan to survey students to find out their experiences with intolerance and produce a video to show what can be done to foster inclusion.

Zeeland students hope to build a totem pole to display American Indian culture and host a multicultural lunch.
Savannah Ratnayake, 13, came from White Pines Middle School in Grand Haven to meet people from different backgrounds.

She took away several lessons. Among them: “The way I look is OK. I don’t care what everybody else thinks. The way I dress is OK.”

Her classmates also learned people are different, but should be accepted.

“We’re each unique in our own way,” said Sam Forthofer, 12.

The trick to teaching tolerance to middle school students? Teaching them it’s OK to speak up.

“Sometimes we think it might take a lot of people when it really only takes one,” Woods said. “... one person, one step, one smile, one hand.”

Participating schools:
• Black River Middle School
• Corpus Christi Catholic School
• Creekside Middle School
• Harbor Lights Middle School
• Holland Christian Middle School
• Holland High School eighth graders
• Lakeshore Middle School
• St. Mary’s Catholic School
• Steele Middle School
• White Pines Middle School