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Copyright 2012 McLean County Diversity Project
Imagine sailing on a schooner in the ocean that is over 1,000 miles from your hometown. You are working with your new friends you met just 10 months ago to move a ship that is bigger than a house. That teamwork helped send the ship in the direction it needed to go. Like this excellent adventure, the Diversity Project has been like a compass that helped me to start to find the direction I need to go in my life.
This, my first year in the Diversity Project, gave me a great deal of opportunities and challenges that I would never be able to experience from sitting in a classroom. I was able to explore many different professions, understand and be sensitive to what it might be like to have a disability, have a hands-on learning opportunity about discrimination in the workplace, and reflect on all that I learned with a final trip to the East coast.
As part of the 2012-2013 theme "The Diversity of Labor", I learned about different jobs that people pursue at the monthly interactions. Some of the people that we interacted with include a lawyer, a special needs teacher and a funeral director. During those three interactions I was able to realize how dedicated people are to their jobs.
A funeral director is almost always on call and sometimes misses family events that are important like a graduation or birthday celebration. To be a lawyer you have to manage the fact that you could be in danger or be threatened if you lost a case you were fighting for. To be a teacher of people with special needs, you could be putting yourself in a position where you might feel uncomfortable. These learning opportunities helped me think about what type of career I would feel comfortable pursuing in the future.
I also learned a great deal about what it is like to live with a disability because of the 'group' project requirement that I chose; the Kids on the Block Puppet Troupe. We performed skits for kids younger than us and taught them about a wide variety of disabilities using our puppets in a form of puppetry called Bunraku. My puppet, Mark, who had cerebral palsy helped kids learn about his disability and how he has to do some things different. He showed that although he had physical challenges, he adapted and could function just like anyone else. This helps makes the kids in our audiences more comfortable with kids with disabilities.
It also helped me to learn that being different is not a bad or good thing, but rather something that makes us unique.
During our East Bay Camp retreat, we were able to practice teamwork and do fun activities where we were learned to recognize the diversity among all of the scholars and new things about each other. We also were able to have interactions where we talked about discrimination in the workplace and were able to create skits that displayed our new knowledge about many types of 'ism's' (i.e. sexism, classism, etc.). These experiences taught me how to identify discrimination and how I can prevent it in the future.
I was able to reflect on all of my experiences this year as we traveled across the U.S. to Salem and Boston, Massachusetts. We stayed at Salem State University - inside the dorms - getting a taste of what it might be like to be a college student. We spent a lot of time in Salem where the witch trials took place and learned firsthand what it was like for individuals who were discriminated against. We visited neat places like one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States and witch museums/presentations to learn from the mistakes of the past and how to prevent them from happening in the future. While in Boston, I was inspired by the spirit of our country's beginnings, learning that I could be independent and try new adventures.
The Diversity Project gives it's Scholars so many experiences that I can't even imagine what I will learn in the next five years. So far, these amazing opportunities have started to help me find my direction in the future to reach my education and career goals.
The Diversity Project is my compass pointing me in the right direction and I look forward to my future with the Diversity Project.
- Oskar, Veteran Scholar
McLean County Diversity Project
McLean County Diversity Project c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz 16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705