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Don’t Hate, Celebrate

Diversity clubs provide support and promote awareness.

Photo+by+Mercedes+Peck
Photo by Mercedes Peck

Photo by Mercedes Peck

Photo by Mercedes Peck

Joey O'Kelly

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A world full of diversity is condensed into two high school clubs where culture is not feared but celebrated. Diversity Council and Academics, Studies, Education and Mentoring, or ASEM, are built to celebrate different cultures within the population of LHS. Students in these clubs come to meetings ready to learn how to understand, promote and, most importantly, celebrate different cultures. For many members of those clubs, February is a particularly special month because it’s Black History Month.

“I think that remembering the history of the black race is important,” Diversity Council sponsor Trilaina McCallum said. “It’s important to know what has happened and look at how far the race as a whole has come. It’s not only the bad but it’s look at all the good that other black people have offered and contributed to society. It’s also a time in my household where we remember when it wasn’t so good. I think if you forget your history and you don’t teach your young children their history, they can’t really appreciate all of who they are.”

Diversity Council

Built on the foundations of celebration and awareness, Diversity Council’s main goal is to help students feel comfortable with who they are and to bring awareness to certain issues and cultures. The club meets every second and fourth Thursday of the month during Liberty Hour in room 301. Along with making students feel comfortable, they also hope that students can make new friends in the club.

“It gives some students a safe space to share their thoughts, their hardships, maybe find some other people going through the same thing as them, make some new friends and learn about other people’s cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations and whatnot,” junior leadership team member Mustafa Mohammad said.

The club’s meetings consist of anything from guest speakers to free discussions to cultural food parties. In the past, Spanish teacher Astrid Ruiz and math teacher Eniola Ajayi have spoken to the club about their immigration journeys and experiences in the U.S. Another favorite activity among members is a cultural show-and-tell, where students bring something to share with the group they feel represents their culture. After these events, members typically have discussions, which can lead to some eye-opening moments.

“That’s in doctrine what’s so important about Diversity Council: learning and recognizing the aspects of people that you weren’t aware of earlier that, had you not known, could have easily grown ignorant to,” sophomore Natu Kahassai said. “I think that it’s not only important but it’s also fun.”

Diversity Council likes to promote a welcoming towards all types of people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else; all are welcome to join. Not everyone is the same and the club believes there is value in diversity.

“Everyone should feel like they matter,” senior leadership team member Ayraka Bree Straws said. “Who they are and what they bring to the table, they should feel that’s important. They shouldn’t have to hide it, they should embrace it.”

With so many different types of people in the club, there are also many different opinions. Diversity Council prides itself in its ability to build respectful relationships, even through disagreements.

“My favorite part and what I value is when I hear students share personal information when they’re comfortable to do that and the group receives them well,” McCallum said. “It’s not always that we agree with everyone. Everyone has differences of opinions and that’s great but even when they do not agree, they’re respectful and you can see that they’re not judging. I love that we can be a non-judgmental group, even in our differences. I feel like if we and our group of young people can do that, then we can teach so many others how to do that.”

ASEM

Similar to Diversity Council, members of ASEM work towards a goal of improving the school as a whole. The club meets every other Tuesday during Liberty Hour in the StuCo room. Meetings are run by club president senior Jordan Johnson and club sponsor Edward Tate.

“Throughout the ASEM meetings we’ve had the past couple weeks, we’ve had more people show up that were completely diverse,” junior Casey Johnston said. “Not necessarily the basis of the culture we keep in the group but I think that’s been good because it shows support for one another and it just makes the club stronger. It’s definitely uniting different cultures in our school and I think that’s powerful.”

Meetings includes discussions about issues at the school and how to fix them as well as planning events to attend, such as leadership conferences. The group is doing many projects for Black History Month, including doing segments about powerful black figures on KLHS.

“We’re all pretty close and I’ve learned a lot,” Johnston said. “We all had the common goal to make the school better. Instead of waiting around for change, we’re trying to attempt to make change. I love everybody’s energy. Everybody’s positive. We goof off a lot but we get the job done when it comes down to it.”

The group has only been around for a short period of time, as it was founded during the 2016-2017 school year. However, once Tate arrived at LHS, he was determined to make it a powerful, motivated and organized group.

Johnston believes the ability to respect other opinions is a valuable asset she has gained from the club.

“To work on acceptance throughout the student body and to respect one another even though you don’t necessarily agree,” Johnston said. “Always respect their opinion and their culture, I think that’s an important lesson to teach to our schools.”

Diversity Awareness

By now it’s obvious that the overarching themes of these two clubs are that of celebration, acceptance and awareness. In a high school, there are many types of people. In the real world, there are even more.

“A school is going to be made up of a whole bunch of different types of people,” McCallum said. “No one is exactly the same. I think when you can have a group that is focused on that, it’s saying first and foremost that we appreciate this; we value this, this is something that’s important to us and there are people who agree with this. I think that’s the first step in trying to bring awareness to things that are not always in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s just to remind people to be respectful of others.”

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Don’t Hate, Celebrate