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Farmington Student Tasha Ruthenbeck Welcomes Guests to Family Dinner at Farmington High School

May 25, 2012

“Hello, and welcome to our diversity club dinner and celebration!  My name is Tasha Ruthenbeck, and I am a sophomore at Farmington High School.  I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to come out here tonight. I am going to give you a review about what we have learned in s.t.a.r.t which stands for “students together as allies for racial trust.” The s.t.a.r.t. model, developed by students from South High in Minneapolis, was the recipient of the St. Paul Foundation’s 2012 Facing Race Idea Challenge grant.  This group was always a safe place you could go and talk about your own experiences and not have to worry about being judged.  As students, we are entering a world where being able to bridge cultures successfully will be very important. Our sessions allowed us to develop our intercultural leadership skills.  One thing we did was meet in a circle to reinforce equality, listening, and understanding. Another strategy was to get into small groups or go around the circle and share our thoughts so that everyone felt equal and part of the discussion. A key point that we talked about was that race is not genetic.  Not one characteristic, trait, or gene can put people in one so called “race.“  It is a social construct put in our minds by historical misperceptions and the media. What most people know about race is a lie, but racism is a reality we live with; it is the belief that one ethnic group is superior to another.

Another theme we talked about a lot was how we identify ourselves.  For example, if you are African American but were adopted into a white home, you would identify with aspects of both white and African American culture.   Both influenced your cultural lenses and your values.  During this we have had many different activities: we visited Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis for the St. Paul Central Touring Theatre’s performance of “Wake Up.“  The performance was about becoming more aware of the social issues of our times.   We also attended a talk by African American elder and professor emeritus from Macalester College, Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati, who taught us that learning about our history is really a study of culture and humanity.  Tonight we want to share what we have learned and hope that you would share some of your stories too. There is also an art project we did that our siblings and family members can complete if they’d like.  This group has guided us to be leaders and to know that differences are okay!

We would like to thank you, our families, for supporting us with this work.  We also thank our teachers, principals and the staff who have participated in our sessions with us, as well as our peers from South High and Lakeville High Schools.  We hope you enjoy the evening.”

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