Beloit-Turner students stand up for diversity

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From left, back row; Beloit Turner Junior Hayley Morgan, eighth grader Anthony Hanson, ninth grader Ketziah Ferral, eighth grader Josh Maloney, sophomore Natalie Fowler and, from left bottom row, eighth graders Jordan Draves and Kelsie Anderson, sophomore Emily Hansen and educator Marshall Reese don T-shirts about what they won't stand for. The T-shirt wearing was part of a day-long event to raise awareness about discrimination and bullying. The event culminated with a diversity fair held Tuesday evening.

Beloit-Turner students took a stand Tuesday, hoping to make their school and the world a better place.

A variety of activities were held to support diversity and educate students and the public about racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, classism and more.

Tuesday afternoon, the students prepared for the annual Diversity Fair to be held in Turner Middle School’s gymnasium that evening. Approximately 120 eighth grade students have studied diversity since February, and wrapped up a six week research project on a specific group of people during a specific time period. Their research was to be displayed at their booths which included an eight foot timeline, a newsletter, an interactive activity and other artifacts, said Transitions teacher Marshall Reese.

Eighth graders Kelsie Anderson and Jordan Draves said they worked on a project on African Americans from 1900-1939. They said the 1900s were a very racist time, with lynching and illegal activities. Many things were under the radar and no one really stood up about it, Draves said. The good news, she said, was there was also a cultural growth with the Harlem Renaissance. Overall, she said she really liked her project and learned a lot.

Josh Maloney’s project focused on Arab Americans, and Anthony Hanson’s focused on African Americans. Maloney said he learned a lot about Arab Americans and about many Americans of Arab descent, such as Steve Jobs and Vince Vaughn.

“Arab American discrimination isn’t that apparent, but it’s out there, especially after the 9-11 attacks,” Maloney said.

Hanson agreed the projects were moving. He studied racism and said he put his feelings about Rodney King’s beating into a poem.

During the school day Tuesday, more than 250 students and staff in grades 6-12 also donned personalized “I Won't Stand For...” shirts, which said what they want to see changed including bullying, homophobia, racism, sexism, ignorance, intolerance and more.

The shirts cost $6 and proceeds are used to raise funds for the newly formed Pride in Diversity Club.

Hanson said he is pleased with the formation of the Pride in Diversity Club and the special projects. He said it was a small step to helping everyone in the school and would inspire people to change.

Reese said interest began in the club when some students were shocked the district didn’t have a gay-straight alliance. Educators and students decided to start a diversity club to promote gay-straight alliance topics as well as other issues of diversity and tolerance.

Reese said he hopes enough money from the T-shirt campaign can be raised to bring in speakers, including Jamie Nabozny, producer of a documentary titled “Bullied.” Nabozny, who grew up in Ashland, said he was targeted in middle school for being gay.

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