Hundreds of students took part in a timely presentation from the SM East Parent Teacher Student Association Wednesday night.
Given the unrest on college campuses about race relations and over the intersection of world cultures, the PTSA’s “Celebrating Differences” presentation on how to create a culture of inclusion and kindness at the school had a number of messages that seemed especially applicable.
“The climate of what’s going on not only in the United States, but throughout the world right now, I think it’s essential that we create communities, small communities where people can come together and have organic discussions about topics that are relevant,” said SM East social studies teacher David Muhammad, who moderated the event.
As part of the evening’s presentation, Jen Greenstreet of Just Like You Films told the students about her company’s work to promote understanding of youth with conditions that may have ostracized them from their peers in past eras. Kids with autism and Down Syndrome, or who are battling cancer or healing from major burn injuries, have a lot to offer to their schools and communities, Greenstreet said.
Greenstreet led the students in an anti-bullying pledge that she said had already been administered at two other northeast Johnson County schools, St. Ann Elementary and Belinder Elementary.
Muhammad stressed that school communities need to recognize that diversity means more than just different races.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in the past year about what does diversity look like at a school like East,” he said. “When you look at the geographical location of it in Kansas City and where it sits…a lot of time we think that because we don’t have a lot of ethnic diversity, we’re not diverse. But that’s not true. Diversity comes in all forms. Diversity comes in race, religion, perspective, socio-economic status. So I think we need to celebrate those differences.”