Heights High students learn to use discussion to address racism

Heights High's (from left) Swaram Ainkaran, David Fleischer, Mark Sack, Ade Sakina, Eric Adeyemon, Brenda Gagehn, Easton Figueroa and Landry Snead attended the Feb. 23 forum on race.

Cleveland Heights High School students in the Lessons of the Holocaust class and Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) club have been engaging in candid conversations about identity and the role of race in society. These conversations have been happening in the classroom, during meetings and at five facilitated discussions with other students and adults.

Mark Sack teaches the Lessons of the Holocaust class and David Peake is the MSAN club advisor.

On Feb. 23, the students attended a YWCA-sponsored “Time to Talk” event at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland. The forum participants included more than 300 adults from Cleveland-area businesses and organizations, seven students from Heights High and seven students from Shaker Heights High School.

Junior Easton Figueroa thought that the approach of talking about race issues can help eliminate racism. “It was good to really listen to others and to make sure that everyone was heard,” he said. “That discussion was really important and I think it can lead to real change.”

The forum attendees ate lunch and viewed a short documentary on the history of integration and race issues in Cleveland. The keynote speaker for the forum was Dr. Akram Boutros, president and chief executive officer of the MetroHealth System. Boutros told the story of his life as a teenager and immigrant. He talked about being bullied because of his dark skin and poor English language skills.

He explained that he was able to avoid a path of delinquency and trouble because others offered him “a break.” Boutros encouraged audience members who hire employees to not focus on what others look like and to give people a break that could change the course of a person’s life.

The last part of the program was a facilitated table discussion that focused on how individual views on race are formed.

Joy Henderson

Joy Henderson is the parent/community liaison for Heights High.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 6:38 PM, 03.30.2015