by Edward Jones, IMDiversity Featured Employer
This Edition: “Unique Youth Program Challenges Discrimination”
In 1954, the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education struck down the legality of racially segregated schools and launched a decades-long battle for diversity in our nation’s schools.
Yet, fifty years later, white, black and Latino students are attending schools in segregated areas where they are the majority. In schools where significant racial diversity has been achieved, students frequently socialize with those who look like them. This type of self-imposed segregation can be so prevalent, that some students chastise others who attempt to establish friendships outside of their racial or ethnic group.
“Some white students won’t talk to me for trying to be friendly with black students and some black students won’t talk to me because I’m white,” said one high school student.
Beyond race or ethnicity, students also have been known to tease others who may not belong to the same socio-economic group or have the same perceived physical appearance or beauty. The subject of the recent teen movie, “Mean Girls” may not be too far from reality for many students.
One Program Helps Students Give Respect-Get Respect
One highly unique youth program is encouraging middle and high school students to be more open to diversity and to one other. The Give Respect – Get Respect Program brings together students from 24 schools, their teachers, representatives from the Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP),
the Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute (AWOD), the National Conference of Community and Justice (NCCJ), and Edward Jones, a corporate sponsor for the last two years.
This year, students in grades eight through ten, their teachers and Edward Jones associates participated in bi-monthly Names Can Really Hurt Us workshops led by the ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute. At workshops held at the Edward Jones headquarters, students discussed and wrote about their experiences with discrimination.
Taryn Pennington, who is African American, remembered an incident when her class learned about the Civil Rights Movement. She said another student leaned over and told her that she wished things could go back to the way they were before the Civil Rights Movement so that “I wouldn’t have to sit next to you.” Although this experience deeply hurt Taryn, she said that it also has motivated her to want to do something about discrimination.
Amal Al-Lozi experienced another kind of discrimination. After the events of September 11, she overheard fellow students expressing anger and resentment toward Muslims. When she confronted them with the knowledge of her faith, some went further and told her that she did not “look Muslim”. “America is made up of many people including Muslims,” she reminded the students.
While these students recalled being victims of discrimination, others admitted being perpetrators of it.
“I wanted to be popular and played along with exclusion. I was naïve about how it could affect people,” said program participant Rebecca Gutmann. Gutmann has since learned to be more open to others and says that she no longer excludes anyone.
“The program not only helped them to recognize discrimination, but gave them leadership abilities of how to react to it,” said Mike Seppi, Director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership, one of the partners and the coordinating organization of Give Respect-Get Respect.
More Than a Corporate Sponsor
During the Give Respect-Get Respect program’s two years, Edward Jones associates have served as mentors to the participating students. For Edward Jones associate Monica Black, the experience was particularly rewarding.
“It’s important for youth to understand those who went before them so that they believe that they can realize their goals and dreams. I had the opportunity to mentor students from my alma mater and show them that if I could succeed, they could succeed,” she said.
Edward Jones mentors have helped the students to develop and lead diversity projects at their individual schools. Some projects have included creating diversity awareness posters and planning a “Mix It Up Day.” For one day, students were encouraged to “mix it up” or socialize with new people other than their friends in the school cafeteria. Students at another school highlighted various ethnic groups each month by publishing articles in the school newspaper, posting bulletin boards, and making announcements over the school’s PA system.
In addition workshops and diversity projects, the Give Respect-Get Respect program offers social opportunities for the students, their teachers and Edward Jones associates.
“We wanted to provide opportunities for students to socialize outside of the program and be themselves.
The St. Louis Cardinals, Rams and Blues have once again stepped up to host and recognize the students for their efforts at home games,” said Seppi.
At the close of this year’s program, three participating students were chosen to attend the NCCJ’s Anytown Institute, a summer leadership development and diversity awareness program for high school students in grades ten through twelve.
“The students were selected for their essays about what it takes to become a capable leader,” said Seppi.
Edward Jones associate Kristen Lynch believes the Give Respect-Get Respect program has had an overall positive effect on all participants
“Not only do youth learn from the experiences of adults, but adults learn from youth. It’s a wonderful refresher to take back what you’ve learned to the workplace and to remember what it takes to be a good role model,” she said.
Edward Jones’ continuing sponsorship of the Give Respect-Get Respect program is one of many partnerships with organizations, such as INROADS, Professional Organization of Women and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement and others, which reflect the firm’s ongoing commitment to diversity in the workplace and in the communities it serves.
For more information about the Give Respect-Get Respect Program, visit www.makeadifferencestlouis.org or call 314/436-7628. For more information about Edward Jones, visit www.edwardjones.com
View articles from previous editions in the complete Edward Jones Diversity Series Archives
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