The Highland Park Middle School on May 4, 2017, celebrated the diversity among its students and staff, as well as the school’s dedication to understanding and embracing difference. Diversity Day, developed and run by Highland Park School District teachers, comprised workshops and key-note speakers. Through these activities, the students explored issues of diversity, difference, race, community, and respect. More than 45 workshops were held throughout the day along with three keynote speakers for each grade. The Highland Park Teen Center, as well as student groups from the Highland Park High School, ran workshops.
“Diversity Day is one part of our school district’s focus on cultural sensitivity, but it really is the pinnacle of these efforts. Our schools reflect our community. We’re about wrapping arms around everyone no matter who he or she is,” said Dr. Scott Taylor, superintendent, Highland Park Schools.
Highland Park students speak more than 29 languages at home and represent a wide variety of cultures and religions.The focus on this day was on dialogue, acceptance, empathy, and change.
The day’s schedule for sixth and seventh graders included testimony from Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman. Eighth Graders began the day with a keynote by filmmaker John Hulme who presented the Highland Park African-American History Project. Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale spoke to students about his work with immigrants and refugees in Highland Park. The event concluded with Dr. Mykee Fowlin performing “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me,” a work that highlighted empathy, acceptance, and avoiding stereotyping.
Students attended the following workshops: Rising India, Tibetan Meditation, Yoga, Disability Awareness, Pinwheels for Peace, Linguistic Diversity, Chinese Calligraphy, Spoken Word, Masking Tape Murals, The Muslim Experience, Jewish Culture, Gender Justice, and LGBT.
The Highland Park Educational Foundation supported Tova Friedman’s visit and Mykee Fowlin’s keynote address. Additional support came from the Highland Park PTO and the Dish Café.
“It was truly a group effort and a remarkably beautiful day,” said Dara Botvinick, middle school teacher and co-organizer of the day.