Diversity Festival connects Parkland schools and PLU community

-First published on Discover Parkland

The Franklin Pierce Youth First Coalition teamed up with students from Parkland schools to hold a Diversity Festival at PLU this week.

Connecting the school district with the surrounding community was one of the primary goals of the Festival that was held in the Scandinavian Cultural Center on Wednesday.

Walter Stanford, a main organizer for the event, says this idea to engage PLU with local schools in the district was prompted by something PLU President Loren Anderson said at his speech at the Desmond Tutu “Be the Spark” event in 2011.

Dr. Anderson wanted to, “Increase our awareness of the community around us,” which is where the idea for this event took root.

Stanford worked closely with Joel Zylstra at the Center for Community Engagement and Service and other influential members of the Franklin Pierce Youth First Coalition and in the Parkland community to organize this event.

The first half of the day was diversity training by Dr. Caprice Hollins. Originally from Seattle, WA, Dr. Hollins was an undergraduate at Seattle University where she received her B.A. in Psychology.

She then went on to earn her M.A. and Psy. D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Multicultural and Community Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.

Her speech was focused on becoming culturally competent in the 21st century and this first portion of the event was aimed mostly at college students and adults who are seeking out ways to encourage diversity in the community.

The second half was the Diversity Festival held in the Scandinavian Center at PLU. Sarah Kluesner for Franklin Pierce Youth First Coalition, says that this part of the event was aimed more towards the younger audience.

A wide representation of the Parkland community was in attendance. Three elementary schools from the area, Christensen, Midland, and James Sales all were represented.

As part of their contribution to the event, some of the elementary school students created a collage of artwork about what they thought about diversity and some put on a short skit to increase awareness about bullying.

Booths were scattered around the Scan Center along with a stage set for performances by groups such as the Lute Nation step team, and Midland Elementary Mustang Club, as well as various tables for arts and crafts.

There are tables lining the Scandinavian Center from groups like the Asian Pacific Cultural Center to local Native American Tribes such as Tacoma First Nations Gathering.

Jesus Castellamos, a member of the Washington High School Latino Club, was one of the volunteers at the event. Several of his fellow club members showed up as well to work a booth and interact with the kids.

“As a minority it’s hard to see yourself in college…this event provides students a way to connect with and someone to look up to,” he states.

The Diversity Festival was a way to get people of all ages to interact and become more culturally aware of the various diverse groups just in the Tacoma area.

Kluesner hopes that the various interactive events will promote a different sort of understanding of the cultures represented and provide a way to, “Share artifacts from different cultures in a more hands-on way.”

Co-organizer Walter Stanford has high hopes for this event’s ability to initiate dialogue within the community and start to erode some of the barriers to cultural awareness.

“We should celebrate each others’ differences… think about how many less problems our world would have if we all thought like this.”

PLU’s vision of working towards further engagement of the Parkland community seems to be slowly becoming more of a reality.

The instrumental minds who had a vision for this year’s Diversity Festival hope that this is only the start of a long lasting connection between Parkland and PLU.

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