U.N. trip changes attitudes about diversity


April 30, 2002|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE UNITED Nations - what better place is there for high school students to learn firsthand about cultural diversity and the breaking down of cultural stereotypes?

That is why about 40 students from the Oakland Mills High School Human Relations Club and the Long Reach High School International Student Organization traveled to New York together to visit the United Nations and Ground Zero. The trip coincided with International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last month.

"We wanted to tie in the dichotomy of the United Nations working toward peace with the tragedy of Sept. 11," said Razia Kosi, faculty adviser for the human relations club.

For some students, the trip changed their attitudes about life.

"I really only went to get out of class," said Jennifer Bryant, a junior at Oakland Mills. "I really never thought about the U.N. before. There was an exhibit there about mine fields. I didn't think mine fields affected me. But there was a picture of a girl with her leg blown off. She was the same age as us. I couldn't believe it.

"It made me think that while I'm out shopping in the mall, there are people going through things like that. It made me want to be more involved in the world and do more to help people."

Amy Adler, a freshman at Oakland Mills, said she went on the trip because it would be a day in New York. But when she got to the United Nations, she realized how important it is.

"I saw that the U.N. is keeping things like the Holocaust from happening again," she said.

After visiting the United Nations, the group stood on the viewing platform at Ground Zero.

"Some of the students in my group had been discriminated against [after Sept. 11] because of their skin color," said Maria Romano-Sweitzer, faculty adviser for the Long Reach club. "But when we got to that platform, reality struck. We were looking at this huge area and thinking about how many people had lost their lives. Everyone was speechless afterward."

Even during the bus ride, students were learning how hurtful prejudice can be. They watched Eye of the Storm, a documentary about a civil rights-era third-grade teacher who segregated her class by eye color and then treated them differently based on that.

"The video really showed me that prejudice is something we created and that's not the way it's supposed to be," Jennifer said. "Just like we built it up, we can break it down."

Oakland Mills High School hopes to make the trip to the United Nations an annual one, partnered with more high schools in the future.

Silent and live auction

The Stevens Forest Elementary School PTA will hold its fifth silent and live auction at 6 p.m. Friday.

More than 200 items and services will be available to bid on, said Christy Wnuk-Fink, fund-raising chairwoman.

Included in the sale are pavilion seats to the Kemper Golf Open, day cruises for six on the Chesapeake Bay, stays and adventures from Williamsburg, Va., to Lancaster, Pa., autographs from Orioles, Ravens and Redskins players, a two-day stay at the Holiday Inn in Washington, two round-trip Amtrak tickets from Washington to New York and gift certificates to amusement parks.

Other items will be available that schoolchildren could consider priceless. These include a limousine ride with Principal John Birus, and picnics with the teachers and staff members.

This is not an adult-only event. While parents are bidding, children can enjoy the "Sock Hop Through Time" in the school cafeteria. Children are invited to dress in costumes from their favorite decade from the 1950s to the 1980s and compete in twist and limbo dance contests and a Hula-Hoop contest. In the art room, children can try their hands at tie-dye. Materials will be supplied; just bring an item to dye.

Toddler child care will be provided by the principal and by Assistant Principal Monterey Morell.

The auction is one of the school's largest fund-raisers. Past proceeds were used to purchase new school playground equipment and computers and software, Wnuk-Fink said.

"Our theme this year has been to build a stronger country by enhancing our community through bettering our schools," she said. "It's really wonderful how generous the community has been."

Committee members are Elaine Gaskill, Jennifer McCullin, Janet Yarn, Allison Roberts, Maxine Mills and Citlali Bacmeister.

The auction is open to the public, and all guests will be entered in a raffle to win gift certificates from local merchants.

The school is at 6045 Stevens Forest Road.

Information: 410-313-6900.

Technology challenge

Congratulations to four Oakland Mills High School students whose team finished third in the Maglev Challenge, a division of the Howard County Technology Challenge that was held April 6 at Wilde Lake High School. The team of Matthew Berlowitz, William Horsey, Jessica Rennenkampf and Claire Tolbert created an electronic vehicle that was designed to travel 20 feet of electrified track and then stop by itself on the last 4 feet of track.

The students were judged on performance, design and fabrication of the vehicle, and on an oral presentation of their design, said technology education teacher Jeff Swab.

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