Project focus: Public forums to increase cultural diversity awareness
Public forum: Corpus Christi’s first-ever Cultural Diversity Forum
Participant: Olivia Chapa, Kaffie Middle School
Program advisor Melvin Musick; Olivia Chapa; Senator Carlos Truan
National Diversity Education Program participant Olivia Chapa, a middle school Spanish teacher, organized the first-ever "Cultural Diversity Forum" in Corpus Christi, Texas. Bringing together a cross section of educators and community members to share information and experiences, Chapa also asked them to consider the Program's essential question: "How and why is diversity the foundational and functional basis for American Democracy?"
"I truly believe that our educational system must begin to more fully address this issue because misunderstandings caused by racial, linguistic, and ethnic differences are straining our society," said Chapa. "Children in our classrooms suffer when we fail to address their needs as distinct individuals with diverse backgrounds," Chapa added. "Many young people are not interested in school because they feel excluded."
The three-part forum Chapa organized included displays, performances, and group discussions that culminated in the creation of A Community Guide to Promoting Cultural Diversity, to which each participant was asked to contribute. Senator Carlos Truan delivered the keynote speech: "Diversity: the Foundational and Functional Basis for American Democracy."
"The opportunity to provide this connection and expansion for the community was exhilarating," said Chapa. "Bringing the topic of diversity as the foundation of democracy to the forefront of the everyday experience for hundreds of people, including my students, was one of the most important parts of the experience."
CULTURAL DIVERSITY FORUM
Break-out session with students
Preservice Bilingual Education teachers from Texas A&M University participate in Forum's community display area
FOR DETAILS OF CHAPA'S CULTURAL DIVERSITY FORUM, CLICK BELOW:
In addition to the forum, Ms. Chapa wrote an article about her thoughts on the future of cultural diversity education, her experience with the National Diversity Education Program and how anyone can use this model to further diversity education. "True believers in a democracy in which diversity flourishes follow similar paths on their journey—acknowledgement, acceptance, understanding, appreciation, and celebration. Many of us believe this is the path that will lead to peace," said Chapa. "As Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican hero once said, 'El respeto del derecho ajeno es la paz.' That is, 'Respect of others rights is peace.'"
Participant: Abby Rogers, Travis Junior High School
Abby Rogers (right) in conversation with advisor Dr. Fahamisha Butler.
"I have come to realize that diversity education is an essential element of basic understanding for both teaching and learning," says Abby Rogers of Travis Junior High in Paris, Texas. "You not only have to recognize and acknowledge that not all students are the same, but you have to use those differences in a positive way to help them learn."
Abby Rogers came to the National Diversity Education Program as a relatively new educator eager to understand the relationship between diversity and democracy and to learn how to develop curriculum that reflected the "we" in "We the people." Abby was mentored by Program Advisor Dr. Fahamisha Butler, and through an Action Research Guide, began to understand the complexities in developing an 8th grade history curriculum from the point of view of the under-represented voices in history.
"As a young teacher in a highly diverse school district, I had been afraid to mention, much less highlight and discuss, issues of diversity," said Rogers. "Through my involvement with the National Diversity Education Program I have developed more confidence as a teacher treading into this sensitive area. I now have the courage and the tools to start creating lesson plans that help my students internalize the overall concept of "we the people" and understand that by learning about American history they are developing as citizens and future participants in the democratic system of our nation."
"I think about diversity education in two parts," Abby added.
1. Teaching students about different cultural backgrounds, points of view, attitudes and traditions
2. Teaching students that have different cultural backgrounds, points of view, attitudes and traditions
"Differences are a wonderful common ground for students to stand on and a way for them to experience other ideas, backgrounds, and traditions in a positive way. These lessons help the student connect with history and each other through their differences. It puts historical concepts and events into a real-world context, and gives students a real and useable purpose for what they are learning."