Baha'i News -- At Barrington High diversity, culture are colorblind

At Barrington High diversity, culture are colorblind

With nearly a 86 percent Caucasian student body - 25 percent more than the state average - Barrington Unit District 220 isn't usually the first place that comes to mind when the term "melting pot" is used. However, Barrington High School's multicultural club makes the school district seem like a miniature United Nations.

About dozen regular club members meet weekly to practice for and plan the events that bring some of the district's diversity to the forefront of students' minds.

In late February, a throng of students went on one of their many visits to the Bahai Temple in Wilmette. Students visit the temple as many as three times a year to have panel discussions on the importance of diversity.

In the fall, students from the club put on a multicultural fashion show. A master of ceremonies introduces the various countries represented in the student body and then those students model traditional garb or other outfits native to their homelands.

In the past, saree from India, Mexican wedding dresses, martial arts performed to music, Philippine courtship dancing and classic German dress have been on display.

"We're trying to help students understand how important it is to interact with others no matter what race, religion or creed they may be," said Tyrone Nelson, one of the faculty sponsors of the group. "People need to know that cultural diversity exists and it's important to respect that. Because one day we may need somebody who is of a different race or culture and the way you've treated that person impacts the way they will respond."

Coming in April, the Dalai Lama monks will make a stop at the high school as one of the few Midwestern stops of their North American tour. The students of the multicultural club, instrumental in bringing the monks to the school, will be rewarded with the performance of a ceremony and a display of chanting, singing and music.

Julie Salk, another faculty member with the club, said that although the overall population of the school may not be that ethnically diverse, the students that are play the largest role in educating the rest of the students about diversity and togetherness.

"The students that are into this are very passionate," Salk said. "They are really embedded in their cultures."

Salk said that she's noticed multicultural fashion has become a bit of a trendy look among kids at the school, which shows just how much acceptance and understanding the multicultural club has brought to the student population.

Nelson said by eating the different ethnic foods the students bring in for the weekly meetings and by participating in panel discussions about topics such as racial profiling and the ethnic beliefs that surrounded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, students become immersed in other beliefs that open their eyes to the wants and needs all humans have regardless of their beliefs.

In the future, the club plans to invite other schools to participate in its discussions to provide an even wider range of viewpoints and encompass cultures that may be represented at other schools.

©Copyright 2002, Chicago Daily Herald

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