Diversity group wants to raise awareness and acceptance at HHS
In the sea of faces that flows through the hall at Hudson High School, there aren't too many students of color but they are there. The school's Diversity Awareness Group is working to make sure that those students aren't lost in the crowd.
Anne Moser is the described as the group's founding member, according to school counselor and group adviser Elizabeth Smith. Moser is Korean and was adopted. An active member of the student body, Moser still felt there was something invisible about her in the predominantly Caucasian student body.
"You get judged before people even meet you. Kids make generalizations about all of us who are Asian. Because of the way I look they think my culture wears kimonos, that I know about Samurai soldiers and that we're all the same whether we're Korean, Japanese or Chinese. They don't see us. And that makes you feel isolated, like no matter what you do you don't fit in. We call it being a 'zebra' - wanting to be blond and blue-eyed on the inside with an outside that will never be that. It can be tough."
Moser initiated the group because she wants to change that feeling for students like her as well as raise the awareness of white students. "The idea of the group is to open students' eyes. We're here but they don't always see us. We want to expose them to the cultures we come from and make them aware of our differences and the things we share. I believe that if we do that we could all be better people."
Teeka Allen is African American and a member of the group. She transferred to HHS this fall as a junior. Her first days and weeks at the school were uncomfortable. "I felt pretty isolated and I felt kind of mad that I wasn't seeing any other African American kids. I felt like the kids were staring at me. But I realized I was being defensive and I made up my mind I was going to talk to them. I started to look them in the face and things got better. It's tough being a new student anywhere. I just had to open up, and kids started to respond."
Ashley Landers is a member of the group, too. She is white and Allen's friend. "We hit it off right away. I didn't really think about her being different. I knew she was new here and I wanted to meet her. Not everybody around here is open to that. We need to be more open to people different from us."
Smith says group membership has grown over the year and they now have a pretty consistent group of 12 students who come to the meetings and participate in their activities. The group just completed a display for African American History Month that included quotes from prominent blacks. They change the display periodically to reflect other topics and issues like Native American awareness, women's history and autism.
On Halloween, the group passed out candy wrapped in paper with messages about diversity to the entire student body. The group was also active in the school's recent annual Diversity Celebration. Smith says the school administration has been supportive of the group and its efforts.
Moser said the group isn't just about racial diversity but all of the differences that can sometimes set students apart from one another. "It isn't just about skin color. There are kids with physical disabilities, kids in special education, kids who are overweight or get picked on. They can feel just as isolated. We want the group to be there for them and to help kids see them. It isn't about tolerance. Tolerance isn't enough. It's about acceptance, real acceptance."
Moser recruited many of the core members. Cristie Blodgett told Roxanne Niskanen about the group. They agree with Moser that students need to do more to raise awareness at the school. Jacque Sletten transferred to HHS, and although she is white, she came from a school that was very diverse, like Allen's old school. "I knew what it was like there and I knew it had to be kind of tough coming here. It can be intimidating."
Moser said that as more students from diverse ethnic backgrounds move into the school district, things will get easier, but in the meantime students can still learn a lot from each other if they open up to one another. "No matter who we are, we can bring something positive to the school and add to the mix. It's not about seeing how different we are. It's more like looking at a rainbow."
For more information about the Hudson High School Diversity Group contact Smith at (715) 386-8411.
Meg Heaton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org