Why We Went to the Smoky Mountains

This year I learned about the Diversity of Age. Our honorable guest speakers told us about history that I believe can never be taught in the classroom. That history seems more real when you hear it firsthand.

The first interaction with Mr. Merlin Kennedy showed us a "different lens" on history that I’ve never seen. Mr. Kennedy was a Freedom Rider in the early 1960's.

We always hear about racism in the south, but he opened my eyes to the hidden part of our own history in which there was racism up to very recently.

I don’t think that racism is over yet, but without the efforts in history and without learning about it, it never will be.

Later, we had Mrs. Margaret Hayes share her experiences as a female growing up in the early 20 th century. Back then women were at home and were not supposed to work.

The main message that Mrs. Hayes gave us was: "Appreciate what you have compared to times in history."

Mrs. Hayes gave us many examples on how life is better in today’s world than it was when she was a child. One thing she told us about was living without electricity. Everything these days runs on electricity, making iceboxes and hauling water a thing of the past.

The war veterans that came in this year made me realize that every veteran, even if they are from the same war, have a different experience to share.

For example, in World War 2, Captain Lee was in the Railsplitter 84th Infantry Division that was sent to Germany through Belgium. They lost a lot of men and he told us about people dying feet away from him.

Yet, he had no idea what life as a prisoner of war was like. Meanwhile Colonel Chumley was in a prisoner of war camp and didn't experience the war the way Captain Lee saw it.

All these interactions give us a better grasp on our history and culture and what the people of our nation and community went through to make the world as it is for us today.

The Diversity Project gave me a new perspective in viewing the world around me and helped me think outside the box.

The interactions this year have changed me by showing me how life is not just black or white, but a complex pattern.

We all view that pattern differently.

Since our experiences make each of us who we are, we are all very unique and diverse, making each of us a treasure-trove of our own history.

McLean County Diversity Project Scholar Srishti Goel

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McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705