Diversity. Inclusiveness. Acceptance.
Those words describe the goals of Evergreen High School’s first ever Diversity Day on Friday.
Students spent the morning learning about everything from Evergreen’s homeless to salsa dancing. They heard from speakers telling about the Lost Boys of the Sudan to what it’s like to be a hearing child of deaf parents.
The seminars were all in the name of getting students to learn in a fun way that there are many different groups in the world, all needing to be respected, and the same is true in Evergreen and at the school.
Diversity Day was the idea of several EHS students. Most people think that Evergreen is not a diverse place, according to assistant principal Joelle Broberg, and students wanted to show the rest of the student body that Evergreen is much more diverse than they think. It’s a matter of making the definition of diversity as broad as possible.
“This event will give students the opportunity to learn that there are different types of diversity, many of which are found among their classmates,” Broberg said. “While most people often associate the word 'diversity' with race and ethnicity, the definition of diversity that we will be using on this day expands to include physical and mental challenges, religion, sexual orientation, gender, intellectual and socio-economic concerns, among others.”
A smattering of seminars
In a seminar about world religions, students were asked to go from table to table, discussing their assumptions about Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. They had one-on-one conversations about people representing faiths different from their own. Representatives from Christian faiths also were on hand to answer questions.
Students learned about the perseverance of the Lost Boys of the Sudan from Arok Garang of Denver. He spoke of his childhood years as one of the Lost Boys.
The boys walked from Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya, where they lived in refugee camps before coming to the United States. Garang is one of 62 Lost Boys in Colorado and one of 3,800 in the United States. His journey began when he was 7 in 1989, and he came to the U.S. in 2001.
Another group made uttapam, a dish from southern India consisting of a spicy rice-based pancake with onions, tomato and green pepper. Uttapam is similar to an omelet, only with a pancake instead of eggs. The students made the batter, cut the vegetables, added in the chili powder and other spices, and fried the pancakes.
Students attended seminars on how people with disabilities adapt and participate in outdoor activities, about the trials of immigrating to the United States, about hate crimes, and about being a gay or lesbian youth.
How far we’ve come
During the debriefing sessions, students were asked to express their opinions about how far the United States has come in embracing diversity since it became a country in 1776. Most students said the country is halfway there, citing more equality for women and everyone having the right to vote as positive examples. But they said the country has a long way to go in other areas such as stopping hate crimes and tolerance for some religions.
The students also discussed diversity and tolerance at the school, and how accepting students are of each other. EHS has a high percentage of students involved in sports and advanced placement or honors classes, and some said students not involved in those activities sometimes are not treated with as much respect.
The students agreed that they needed to consider one another’s differences and accept them to make the EHS community, Evergreen and the world a better place.
One of the seminar speakers, Tony Bottagaro, discussed his approach to the world and his philosophy of life depicted in a book he wrote called “To Create a World More Human and More Divine.”
He told the students: “Love is the enduring solution to all our problems. That’s easier to say and difficult to do. Each day you must think, ‘How can I make a difference when justice, peace and love are secondary to corruption and greed?’ In this world, it’s not about me, and it’s not about you; it’s about we together.”