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Many Cultures, One Bison Initiative Continues

This year students are learning to lead discussions about diversity with their peers

Students+painted+rocks+at+last+year%27s+One+Bison+Summit.+Photo+from+Beachcomber+archives+by+Amy+Chen
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Many Cultures, One Bison Initiative Continues

Students painted rocks at last year's One Bison Summit. Photo from Beachcomber archives by Amy Chen

Students painted rocks at last year's One Bison Summit. Photo from Beachcomber archives by Amy Chen

Students painted rocks at last year's One Bison Summit. Photo from Beachcomber archives by Amy Chen

Students painted rocks at last year's One Bison Summit. Photo from Beachcomber archives by Amy Chen

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Many Cultures One Bison (MCOB) is continuing this year.

A committee to broaden race relations and tolerance in BHS, MCOB is led by media production teacher Kevin Houchins, technology teacher Craig Alexander, Principal Tony Srithai, Superintendent Dr. Bob Hardis and a core group of students who were in the committee last year.

MCOB began as a way to give students the skills to deal with hatred and bias that they may encounter not only in school but also in life.

“As the conversation evolved, we realized those instances [of racism in BHS] only happen a small percent of the time,” Srithai said. “So our students said, ‘What if we made a day to celebrate [tolerance and acceptance]?”

With this goal in mind, MCOB was created.

Last year, the committee consisted of diverse students in the high school who worked together to hold a diversity summit under the banner of Many Cultures One Bison. This was the main goal of the committee and most of what they focused on throughout the year.

The day included lectures by academics such as Dr. Terrell Strayhorn and small group discussions on issues such as stereotypes in the media.

“Last year we hosted a summit,” Srithai said. “Logistically it’s hard to pull it off every year. Afterwards, we surveyed the students and [asked] what [they found] most valuable in that event. And they said it can’t just be a one-day event—it needs to be an ongoing conversation.”

This year, the committee’s goals are smaller but no less important.

One of the main things the committee wants to do is send a group of high schoolers down to the middle school to talk to 8th graders about tolerance before they transition into high school. This way, change can start early.

I feel like it’s an important subject to talk about because there are still a lot of issues in this school concerning people of different races,” Murthy said. “There’s a lot of ignorance and I feel like MCOB is a way of addressing that ignorance.

I feel like it’s an important subject to talk about because there are still a lot of issues in this school concerning people of different races. There’s a lot of ignorance and I feel like MCOB is a way of addressing that ignorance.”

— Sanjana Murthy

The other goals stated in their mission statement are to provide knowledge of differences and to embrace the opinions and thoughts of others; create a lasting impact on the world; build awareness of the weight of your actions; develop respect for others; and to celebrate what makes us unique.

This year, the committee is also opening itself up to any interested students. As a result, the committee has grown from 15 to around 30 students.

This year students have been trained about how to conduct discussions about diversity with other students. Freshman member Greg Perryman explained how the committee training meetings are organized.

“We [started] training sessions just a few weeks ago, and these sessions have been about a wide array of issues, including race and socioeconomic status…” he said.

Perryman added that an instructor from the Diversity Center has been helping the students and understands the climate of BHS in order to train students to lead effective discussions.

Committee member Sanjana Murthy, who was on the committee last year as well, spoke about why she chose to get involved.

“I feel like it’s an important subject to talk about because there are still a lot of issues in this school concerning people of different races,” Murthy said. “There’s a lot of ignorance and I feel like MCOB is a way of addressing that ignorance.”

“I think that [in] our school, Beachwood, the national scene, so much is changing so rapidly that we need to equip our students with the tools to respond appropriately,” Srithai added. “You guys are literally the future. We want you to leave Beachwood with the tools to be able to live up to our mission statement.”

“[Now that] I have a better idea of what MCOB is and what we hope to accomplish, it’s made me more confident in my abilities to speak out,” said Murthy. “I think a lot of the diversity center trainings have opened my mind up to different possibilities. It’s taught me more about myself and [now] I can try to better understand what other people are going through.”

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Tal Rothberg, Staff Writer

Tal Rothberg began writing for the Beachcomber in the fall of 2018. Tal enjoys covering local stories and school events. In her free time, Tal likes...

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