2017-01-12 / Letters

Students understood diversity

To the editor:

I am the founder/facilitator of the group, “Color of Community,” a group of college aged students who teach about the dangers of bias, prejudice and stereotype and the power of tolerance, forgiveness and love. We travel to faith groups, schools and community groups using a variety of methods for our teaching.

On Nov. 18 we were invited to Old Orchard Beach High School by English teacher Matthew Moon to work with 40 high school seniors. Since that day, the members have not stopped talking about this experience. First, Mr. Moon has prepared the students with some knowledge and understanding of my members: asylum seekers, refugees and immigrant – their challenges, their country conditions and the differences in the groups. The students were thoughtful, kind, introspective and accepting. They asked provocative questions and gave provocative answers as well. They were respectful and began to learn the common grounds we all share.

Second, Mr. Moon was fully engaged as were other instructors who participated with the group. This was great to see. Third, Eric Hanson, the assistant principal, was in the library with us and was fully engaged as well. I bring this to the forefront because I have been doing this work for eight years and this is the first time an administrator has taken the time to participate. He did not set himself apart; he sat with us and was fully participatory.

Last, the students are required to write to the group members following the experience, telling them what they learned, thought, or reflected after we left. These letters were extremely well written, speaking both in terms of general understanding and then often naming the member he/she remembered and why. Many remarked that this was a truly memorable day for them, as it was for us also.

Given that there is often criticism of public education, I wanted to highlight the work of Matt Moon, the leadership of Eric Hanson, and the participation of 40 high school seniors (all with their cell phones put away the entire time). We had a great day and hope to return in the future. Thanks to all of you for a truly great day.

Rosemarie De Angelis, facilitator and member Color of Community South Portland

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