Students from Pierce College Puyallup gathered April 16 in the Multi-Purpose room to tell their stories about the Students of Color Conference. The event took place with enthusiasm and meaning, as students who attended the conference discussed making history. Their stories resounded in the halls, and will continue to be told as they go on in their collegiate experience.
Nineteen students attended the conference, described by Student Programs coordinator Sonja Morgan as a project of “equity, diversity, social justice and activism.”
Student Griffin Silver opened the discussion with commentary on countering the negative effects of social segregation. Silver said the conference “confronts the attitude of racism.”
Most of the students said they didn’t expect what they experienced. They said they were expecting a Multicultural Faire, but they received deeply impacting confrontation. They all shared positive reflections on the event and described it as a place they wished they could stay. Many of them didn’t want to leave because it felt like a family. The divisions of race and culture were shattered, and they experienced new perspectives on their individual places in the world. Students called it impacting and enlightening.
Student Michael Alkiré said he learned that the cultures of the Middle East don’t all share the same language and there is a broad spectrum of people that can’t be put into a lump sum. He says some cultures are polar opposites, and it’s important not to judge an entire region of people.
“If you’re not comfortable talking about it, talk about it more,” is one of the most impacting lessons he learned said Alkiré.
The conference taught students about what it means to be human, and that their humanity comes before everything else. The conference stretched them to new heights and challenged them to think differently about their perceptions of race, ethnicity, religion, and unity. It gave some students a new empathy for those who have suffered the effects of racism.
“I experienced what it feels like to be small,” student Hannah Bryan said.
The conference helped her to understand what it’s like to be a minority in a group of people and what it must feel like for someone who experiences that every day.
Students such as Teresa Gonsalves experienced life-changing said she’s had a huge drive for multiculturalism for a long time.
“The conference was a kick in the teeth, and it was a good one,” Gonsalves said.
Students agreed it was an experience that shaped awareness and brought them to new possibilities and upward horizons.
Student Jeremiah Holt said that the conference helped him to break out from ten years away from school and separation from the world. He said that each person has a story to tell and life is about telling your story.
After Jeremiah spoke, Interim Puyallup campus President Colette Burnette walked to the podium with tears of inspiration.
“I want to ride on the wings of Jeremiah’s passion,” Burnette said. “Stretching yourself beyond the classroom is how the collegiate experience grows you as a person.”
“This is a testimony of how wonderful humankind is,” Burnette said, and “this is one of the best investments the college can make.”
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