Students start movement to share perspectives and bring acceptance
“He was concerned that we were missing a voice,” said literacy specialist and Diversity Club advisor Karyn Hunt.
That “he” was sophomore Angel Rosas. In his freshman year, Rosas attended a diversity conference at Michigan State University and noticed other schools in the area have clubs promoting student diversity. Rosas felt Holt was underrepresented in this area and took action.
We can come together and talk to each other about...what we want to change in the school itself or in our community.
Rosas reached out to Hunt about the possibility of starting a similar club at Holt. With development in the works throughout the summer, the Holt Diversity Club emerged at the start of the 2018-19 school year. Rosas said he had a goal to build something where students could talk about their experiences and perspectives in a comfortable environment.
“It’s a safe place to be, where you can say your opinions or anything and express yourself,” said Rosas. “I feel like I fit in somewhere.”
Sophomore Shiona Key, one of the group’s leaders, believes the environment of the club is anything but judgmental, and Diversity Club extends past racial borders.
“We say how we feel and listen to others opinions and not judge each other...for our skin tone or sexuality,” said Key.
One of the reasons why students said they formed this club was to try and change the disconnect they felt existed among people in the school.
“We just don’t come together as a whole school. People don’t understand certain cultures”, said junior Jamiyah Kimbrough, another student leader.
The group is student-led, but two teacher supporters attend the meetings: Hunt and social studies teacher Robert Dozier. Since the school has a small number of minorities represented in its instructional staff, Dozier said he wants more for the staff and the kids through Diversity Club.
“My first goal is to bring awareness and get some identification for those within our school population that feel they aren’t represented,” said Dozier.
As a teacher, Hunt feels there needs to be more of a focus on understanding different identities in the classroom. She said the group needs to be student-led so people can learn from the students.
“There is so much I don’t know. Teach me. What are we doing wrong?” said Hunt. “We are missing a piece. There is a cultural mismatch in schools.”
Hunt said she hopes the meetings will persuade more adults in the school to join and listen. Additional staff members have already started coming to meetings. Hunt also hopes students will bring awareness of this cultural mismatch to administration.
“I want the kids to feel more empowered and able to talk about things openly. And also, I want us, as a staff, to understand more about kids and what they need,” said Hunt.
Rosas said he wanted to stress that no matter their backgrounds or race, students go through many similar experiences—positive or negative.
“We can come together and talk to each other about everything that goes on and what we want to change in the school itself or in our community,” Rosas said.
Even with the positive atmosphere, Rosas said there are people who don’t want to attend meetings because they don’t believe that change can, and will, occur in the school. He believes something different.
“If we all come together, and we really want something to change, we can. We will make it happen,” said Rosas.
With Diversity Club being student led, Dozier said raising awareness to these issues is even more possible.
“Any revolution, if you pay attention to history, and I mean any change, the young have done the work. The young have to realize that the responsibility lies on their shoulders,” said Dozier. “They bring fresh new ideas.”
The first event the Diversity Club hosted was a group viewing of the film “The Hate U Give.” After advertising the event to every student, the theater was sold out for the showing. The next day, 75 students participated in a discussion in the library led by a speaker from Michigan State University. He managed to get students to open up about their experiences and connect to the movie.
After these events, Hunt and Dozier said the students were excited and engaged. Dozier said this brings him hope for the future.
“We need to recognize that this community is changing, and therefore, our school community is changing,” said Dozier.
The Diversity Club has more ideas underway and has collaborated with and gained support from other groups about other social learning events.
The club started out slowly, but now, they are gaining more momentum. The group meets every Monday around 3 pm. The students said anyone and everyone is welcome.
Said Rosas, “That’s the biggest thing I want to get to people. We are all human at the end of the day.”