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2010 Spring Middle School Conference

2010 Calling All Colors Middle School Conference; students participating in cooperative games


One hundred thirty middle school students from ten area middle schools participated in the fourteenth annual Calling All Colors conference at Grand Valley State University on Tuesday, May 4.

The conference focused on breaking down stereotypes and increasing understanding of Middle Eastern cultures. The conference began with a welcoming to the university by Wendy Wenner, Dean of Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies.

This was followed by a Keynote Address from Najla Salih, a GVSU graduate and former president of the GVSU Muslim Student Association, who shared reflections on diversity and experiences from her own life. The students had an interactive question and answer session with Ms. Salih who encouraged students to ask anything about her experiences of being Sudanese, growing up in Saudi Arabia and moving to Kansas. Students eagerly posed questions that ranged from, “What do you value most about being Muslim” to “Do they have movie theaters in Sudan?”

Following this, student groups from each school shared presentations on what they have accomplished in their school communities to create a greater appreciation for diversity. Some projects included organizing a Mix-It-Up at Lunch day to encourage students to sit at a different lunch table to cross invisible lines of school division. Other schools invited speakers, organized multicultural events and made videos to promote inclusion.

Then, the students broke out into dialogue groups and were led through a series of activities designed to promote meaningful discussion on their understandings and misunderstandings surrounding Middle Eastern cultures.

The dialogue included watching the video "A Land Called Paradise."

One student reflected, “I’ve learned that we shouldn’t judge people by what they wear and we should get to know people who may dress differently than we do.”

In the afternoon, students participated in cooperative games in which they interacted with peers from other schools and racial and ethnic backgrounds, creating an opportunity to work together and make new friends.

Special Thanks to:

Keynote Speaker: Najla Salih, a GVSU graduate and former president of the GVSU Muslim Student Association
Emcee: Amy Terhaar

Volunteers: Waltraud Beckman, Cindy Brown, Kate Carlson, Grace Denny, Ashley Dewitt, Andree Garner, Alan Headbloom, Heather Medina Sauceda, Alessandra Musiani, Amy Terhaar, Michael Weller, Sulari White
Hope College Interns: Kelly Garcia and Melanie Weimer

Participating Middle Schools and Liaisons: Black River Public School, Creekside Middle School, Corpus Christi Catholic School, Holland Christian Middle School, Holland High Eighth Grade, Lakeshore Middle School, Harbor Lights Middle School, Macatawa Bay Middle School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, White Pines Middle School