This year, World Link held four Midterm and Diversity Immersion Conferences in different regions across the US during the month of January; many of the events taking place over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
The aim of this conference is to have students assess where they are in their program goals and develop a plan to meet their goals by the end of the year, give students the skills and tools they need in order to successfully plan and implement their Global Youth Service Day projects, and to immerse students in an activity that allows them to experience a diversity issue first-hand.
The Diversity Immersion activity for many of our students, is the most impactful experience of the weekend. Here is what each our regional groups participated in for their immersion activity:
- Our Iowa cluster took part in a Q&A session with the pastor and some members of the congregation before attending the church service at Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.
- The Illinois cluster joined in with the singing and dancing when they attended a service at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
- Our Colorado group attended a traditional African American church and on MLK Jr. Day had the honor of joining tens of thousands of people for the 2016 Martin Luther King Marade (March and Parade) – the largest march to celebrate the life and legacy of this important civil rights leader in America.
- The California Cluster spent a Sunday morning and early afternoon at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California, where they were challenged to understand the Holocaust in a historical and contemporary context. They had the honor of hearing a Holocaust survivor tell his life story and also learn about all forms of modern day prejudice and discrimination.
Instead of us trying to explain the impact the diversity immersion experience had on our students, we will let them tell you:
“An African-American Christian Pastor, talking about justice and righteousness. He was also talking about Islamophobia in the United States and how people should not fall in the “trap” of judgments driven by fear and emotions. He mentioned immigrants, refugees and Civil Rights of Africans-Americans and the church honored the memory of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, he was assassinated in the city we are in right now. Today’s church service “embodied” diversity. African-Americans were so kindhearted, their hospitality is mind-blowing. And as an Arab, born and raised a Muslim, this directly touched me. One of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Thank you World Link!” – Khalil Aidani (Tunisia/IL)
“I learned that we are the generation that can change the future. Make it brighter, full of hope. Where people will live as an equal and won’t discriminate others for their skin color, appearance, accent, clothes they wear, or anything.” – Anano Neparidze (Georgia/IA)
“This weekend was an undoubtedly impactful event for me. Participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and seeing so many people marching together for civil rights showed me a true spirit of unity and dedication. Diversity Immersion activity once again reminded me how our countries of origin do not define us and how important it is for each of us to use all our determination to make a change. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of all this and, of course, to spend time with wonderful people who inspire me to move towards my goals no matter what.” – Yevheniy Kripak (Ukraine/CO)
“Going in the Museum of Tolerance was one of the best activities in this year for me. I’ve learned this history in my history lessons but it was day when I clearly understood and experienced this history. We walked with one of those people’s lives. My favorite part was meeting the man from this period and giving us speech about this time, his childhood, his family, how he survived. It was cool to meet person who has seen Hitler and talked to Albert Einstein. It was cool for all of us, for all of exchange students cause we are diversity by ourselves.” Manana Kapanadze (Georgia/CA)
“I want to say what stood out to me at the MLK Marade. I learned that Martin Luther King is also important to the exchange student program because he is the reason students from all over the world can come to the U.S without any problems. If he didn’t fight for equality then African’s like myself won’t have the opportunity to have the experience of being an exchange student. I wouldn’t be here today if not for MLK. This is an event that I’ll celebrate everyday of my life.” – Faith Daloba (Nigeria/CO)
“Today during our conference we found out a lot about the world we live in. We learned that discrimination is one of the biggest problems in our society, we actually had an opportunity to talk with people who were discriminated. And one men said that we are young generation and we can make a change, that our goal is to speak up. “If we go softly how will they know we are not alone,if speak gently we will never make a sound.” So one lesson I got from today that we should not afraid to speak, that we all have a voice and we can make this world better!” – Olena Stohnii (Ukraine/IA)
“Being in Museum of Tolerance was very touching for me. I am coming from the country that suffered like Jewish. When Hitler was organizing the holocaust for Jewish he wrote in his statement ” Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” This shows the apathetic of the world. If the world had tried to do something and stopped Armenian Genocide, maybe it wouldn’t encourage others like Hitler to do this to other nations. This means a lot to me. We, humans, must speak up, we must care about our planet, our people without considering their nation, religion, etc. Visiting this museum was a great experience, I am glad that today the World remembers and talks about this kind of things, (Genocide, Humans right) so we can do something to prevent and protect our World.” – Anna Minasyan (Armenia/CA)
“Diversity wasn’t a reason for people to hate but a wealth to be thankful. Thankful that the world is not a boring place where there are just the same type of people everywhere. Thankful that there are people that think, see or do something differently so we can learn by comparing and grow up. I mean, 13 different countries’ teenagers representatives can bond together as family, then can somebody please give me reason why the world cannot see it like we did?” – Talitha Messakh (Indonesia/CO)
“Throwback to the Memphis trip, I didn’t expect that it would be this special , but obviously it was. Since we tried some of the most famous dishes there, visited the civil rights museum in memory of Martin Luther King , and on top of my list was the African American church that we visited. I’ve heard a lot about African American church’s, but living the moment as they say inside that church was so much more than what I expected. The energy that these people had while praying was unbelievable and the respect that they had for Muslims made my day even better. I will never forget the hours that we spent in that church , such a peaceful place.” – Hanane Bousful (Morocco/IL)
“The MLK Marade 2016 was a very powerful and inspiring event for me. Seeing so many different people getting together to support equality and justice, seeing so many causes come together into a single one – civil rights, makes one realize the power in humans uniting for a righteous and worthy reason. It was one of the most influential moments in the US so far. Thank you, World Link and Jodi Meek for this wonderful experience!” – Vlaciu Motrescu (Moldova/CO)
“Today we learned a lot and one of it is that no matter what color of skin you have, what religion and believes you have, what part of the world you came from, you just have to walk with acceptance, acceptance of those things that makes you unique. Because the world is full of differences and that what makes it exciting. Remember that the rainbows in the skies looks beautiful because of the different colors. We just have to learn how to respect every other individual.” – Khayriyyah Fayhka Ala (Philippines/IA)
“The experience that we had at the Museum of Tolerance was very educational and helpful for all of us. I think that it made us think and question ourselves in which way we can act in order to improve and grow as individuals that won’t be judgmental and how can we apply that to our communities so it will have a bigger outcome. It really gave us great ideas and motivation to make a change in order to be better.” – Viktorija Nestoroska (Macedonia/CA)
“I feel really honored and grateful, since I had a great pleasure to meet people, real people, who have gone through Civil Rights Movement. One of the greatest things, that I gained during my exchange in the U.S.A is people. People, who fought against racism. People, who proved that time for justice, equality, and freedom is always right now. People, who have fought not only for African-Americans, but for whole America.
I strongly believe, that Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and other many people who spoke up against injustice, have changed the world. Do you know why? Because after many years, a girl from Nigeria and a girl from Republic of Georgia stood together in the U.S.A.
Together, with full of pride near the name of the bravest woman – Rosa Parks as a symbol of equality, freedom, and justice.” – Tamar Tchanturia
“The experience in the Museum of Tolerance definitely had changed my view on the world. During all those stories I was asking to myself one question: “How could we let it happen?” Holocaust, war, killing,racism; those are human fault, but why? We all are guilty in what is happening, but why? After certain time I pulled out one really important thing. Not exciting thing. Silence.. Staying in the back is what led to all those awful consequences. Only one thing can hurt billions of people on the Earth. And it is silence. It was all going on, but people did not care. Only few people could change a lot. This is what I took home. The words “Never stay in the back and speak up” will stay with me for a long time.” – Stanislav Tkatsevich (Ukraine/CA)
“It takes only one man/woman to make a difference and today that was emphasized through the fact that Martin Luther King made a change. As did many others in several countries and they should be honored. Your opinion matters stand up and make a change.” – Tiffany Anders (South Africa/IA)
“I read about Dr. MLK 2 years ago from a local paper with list of world’s great men, I couldn’t have imagined that one day I ll be in a parade in honor of the legacy and works of the world’s influential champion of racial justice. It was like a dream come true for me to be part of the marade. Thinking back on it, I’d like to say: Thank World Link for the wonderful opportunity. I see Interracial and Intercultural Cooperation and sharing for one cause: justice and equality during the MLK day. One particular sign I learned is “ Diversity is our strength”. Yeah, I see strength in diversity, It is what makes exchange year special, unique and interesting. It’s alright to be different and that’s the very reason we’re here; to explore, share, get involved and sharpen our understanding of people and world around us. We all need people that are different to make a difference in our lives.” – Nehemiah Danjuma (Nigeria/CO)
It is clear the Midterm Diversity Immersion is an activity our students will remember for a lifetime. Students learned not only about the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Right’s Movement, but also how through promoting his principals of peace and tolerance in their everyday lives; they can change the world.