Reception Showcases ELHS Intercultural Dialogue Projects

Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 8:25 am
Karessa Wheeler

Taylor Hall returned to her alma mater this year to fill a void. The MSU Education major was among a group of college students working with East Lansing High School students on understanding different cultures and perspectives. Hall graduated from ELHS in 2010.

“I really wish we had (Intercultural Dialogue) when I went here,” Hall said. “I really enjoyed working with the students here.”

Intercultural Dialogue is an eight-week workshop culminating in a reception in which students show what they have learned about different cultures. This year’s reception was held during two lunch hours on Tuesday May 1 in the Hub at the high school.

Ben Lin, an MSU Education and English senior, said he finds value in giving students a better idea of what “the real world” looks like while they are still in high school.

“We get some pushback from the students but what we are talking about is so important because this is how things work in the real world,” Lin said.

ELHS freshman Nadiah Dowker agrees. She created a quilt square that reads “Racism is not dead” as part of her pre-AP English class. Her facilitator, MSU senior Alisha Clavelli, produced a small quilt made of squares from her students.

“People think that racism is dead, that is a thing that only happened ‘back then’ and not going on now,” Nadiah said. “It’s not dead. People are being judged by their race or their color every day.”

According to one of the Program's founders, Dr. Donna Rich Kaplowitz, "The goal of the program is to deepen students' ability to understand across racial identities and to teach them strategies to support one another. The program is built upon other similar university - high school programs developed across the country and in Michigan.

Students learn about the difference between dialogue and debate and are invited to practice dialogue skills where participants are trying to add to the common pool of knowledge and listen deeply to others rather than trying to debate.

Kaplowitz also explains that "Students are invited to participate but nobody is ever required to share publicly in any part of the curriculum."

The best part of the program for parent Erin Graham is that it not only exposes kids to other cultures, but can help those who feel marginalized find common ground with others.

“It’s great just to know you are not alone with your struggles,” Graham said.

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