Diversity Coordinator Jesse Gossett was hired four years ago to help develop the Diversity Program at Liberty Union High School District. Since that time, he has worked with administrators, faculty, staff and students to stimulate discussions about diversity and nurture an environment of understanding at all of the district's schools.
With the community and school populations becoming more diverse every year, we need to validate and appreciate people from all cultures, said Gossett. Our world is shrinking due to technology, and we must be able to relate to individuals on a global basis.
To that end, Gossett has formed Campus Climate committees comprising student representatives from various groups. Input from these committee meetings is invaluable, according to Gossett, because students speak freely and describe what's going on at school from their special point of view.
Oftentimes, groups such as students with disabilities or students from an ethnic minority feel left out, Gossett said. Diversity awareness helps to build validation and recognition of individuals from all groups, and eventually every student will have a sense of belonging. This is true for the school communities, and for all communities.
Gossett's life mission is to bringing people together. We need to cross barriers and create a community that learns about different groups, and respects their backgrounds, he said. Every group has overcome difficulties to get where they are, and we can learn from these victories over whatever hardships they encountered. Students on campus soon come to see the similarities among themselves, and the walls that once separated them into groups begin to come down.
District schools have created a Diversity Calendar as part of the program this year. The calendar includes such activities as celebrating other cultures' foods, displaying flags from around the world, exhibiting cultural dance and song, and incorporating daily announcements that highlight cultural achievements.
To celebrate the National Hispanic Heritage Month of September, Gossett assembled students from Freedom, Heritage and Liberty high schools to discuss what their cultures meant to them, and how diversity awareness is changing at school.
I am Puerto Rican and Hawaiian, and my family is very close and lots fun to be around, said Liberty student Marissa Gonzales. We know how to celebrate! My family reaches out to others, includes others. I didn't feel like I belonged in my old school, but it's much better at Liberty.
Ethan Watts, whose background is Canadian and Scottish, has been on the Heritage Campus Climate Committee for three years. I'm not Hispanic, unfortunately, Ethan said, adding that he was raised to embrace many world cultures, and that optimism and family ties are the words he would use to describe his Hispanic friends.
Freedom's Dixie Morales said that family is one in the Hispanic culture. She believes that one needs to go back to your roots to find out where you come from, and find out who you are. Mrs. Gonzalez-Ortega (Freedom's Latinos Unidos Club Advisor) is an amazing teacher, and she really helps bring students together at school.
Contributed by Sarah Singrin