Student writings featured in Columbia's diversity celebration

Thursday, January 16, 2014 | 10:48 a.m. CST; updated 10:56 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 16, 2014

COLUMBIA — A collection of writings from 39 Columbia-area students were given to people who attended the city's 21st annual Columbia Values Diversity Celebration on Thursday morning.

More than 250 fourth- through 12-grade students from public and private schools in Columbia submitted writings addressing the theme for this year's celebration, which was "The Rich Tapestry of Diversity." 

The city's Office of Cultural Affairs managed the submissions. A committee reviewed the writings and decided which ones would be published in the booklet.

JJ Musgrove, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said involving students in the project was enlightening.

"Being able to have the voice of the youth being represented in some way reminds us, oddly enough, we don't grow up," Musgrove said. "We still have the same thoughts, the same fears, the same challenges to overcome."

Sarah Dresser is the program specialist for the Office of Cultural Affairs and helped manage the booklet project.

"(The committee) wanted to have the students' perspective of what it's like living in Columbia," she said.

Michelle Jones, an eighth-grade English teacher at West Middle School, incorporates the opportunity into her curriculum every year. Sixteen of her students' writings were published in this year's book.

Columbia Values Diversity is particularly exciting for her students because it gives them the option of submitting a variety of pieces, from essays to poetry, she said.

"It's an opportunity for (students) to get their writing out there and figure out that they can write and that they're good writers, and to see it go beyond the classroom," Jones said. "Parents really love that their child has been published, and it's just a great opportunity for them to see validation of the work their child is doing here at school."

More than 1,000 copies of the book were given to those who attended the celebration breakfast, which began at 7 a.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. All the students who submitted pieces also received a copy of the final booklet.

Here are some of the pieces from the 30-page publication, which can be found on the city's website.

Diversity. We have had wars about this one word. Diversity. It’s a powerful word, if it can kill thousands of people it is powerful. All the outcomes of those wars are the same. Everyone is different and you just have to be okay with that. If everyone was the same the world would be boring. No art, you would know everything just because someone around you knows it. All our leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington would just be people who lived awhile ago. Everyone is different, you just have to accept that as a fact.

— Libby Stiles, fourth grade, Shepard Elementary School; Nikki Kunkel, teacher

It’s not fair when people don’t get along. Some people make fun of other people who have disabilities. I’m glad we are all allowed to go to school together. It only takes one person to make a difference. Everyone can take time to make a difference in our world.

Everyone can get along. No matter if you are black or white or any race. We should all get along.

Dr. Martin Luther King made peace for the people and allowed us to have equal rights that’s why everybody gets along but we should always remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech. Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King for allowing us to celebrate diversity.

— Cameron Blacklock, fourth grade, Rock Bridge Elementary School; Caitlin Germeroth, teacher

Diversity means to be different
Like every person in the world
Be nice, be fair, give encouragement
As much as you can in our world

We are all from different places
We all have different races
So even if you’re black or white
You will always still have the right
To be a separate human being
And to always be agreeing

Martin Luther King was an amazing man
He gave many speeches which now can
Show how the world has changed
Because of that one good man

— Maryum Khaja, fifth grade, Islamic School of Columbia; Nancy Brunner, teacher

Sitting here, surrounded by classmates,
All different backgrounds, and all different races.
I look around, and realize
Everyone is different, but not just with shape and size.
Each one of us has a story to tell,
And in my head, there began to ring a bell.
Oh how glorious this community is! With open gates and open doors,
Welcoming each ethnicity more and more.
And although our community can get quite faulty,
We always have full equality.
Looking back, far from today
I ask, were these the visions of MLK?
A community plentiful with many choices,
With many people and many voices.

— Samuel Graham Muchow, eighth grade, West Middle School; Michelle Jones, teacher

We are all a painting
Different colors painted on a large masterpiece
Brought together on one tapestry
We are all a mosaic
Everyone a different tile
Each tile telling someone’s story
We are all a quilt
Everyone a piece of patchwork
Each piece sewn together
If one piece of patchwork unravels,
We all unravel down to the last thread
We are all a large piece of artwork
Sewn, glued, and painted together
No matter what color we are, or what our history is,
We are all a masterpiece

— Gillian Stiles, eighth grade, Oakland Middle School; Andrea Kirkpatrick, teacher

A million people in the world are scared. Scared of being judged, isn’t that why we try so hard? But why should we be scared anymore? We all come together; we all make up a society. Each and every one of us contributes something special. So why can’t we embrace who we are? Wear, talk, and say whatever we want? Because in the end we help each other grow, so why don’t we just start now? We all look different, sound different, we’re just different. And that’s what makes us amazing when we work together. Our heritage, our talents, and our diversity are things to embody.

— Ivy Le, eighth grade, Smithton Middle School; Lina Abdul Wahid, teacher

The Columbia I know is a luscious jumble of trees
Each with our own bark, stems, and leaves.
In the crisp autumn, we display colors galore
Bright red, burnt orange, pale yellow and more
From when I first opened my eyes, the differences were all I could see
And as I grew older, they meant more to me
I went to school with a rich blend of people
But that diversity, I’ve learned, is what makes us all equal
(You can read the rest of this poem on the city's website.)

— Saja Necibi, 11th grade, Rock Bridge High School; Nicole Clemens, teacher

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