Dirigo High School plans diversity day

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DIXFIELD – An event that started years ago as a way to celebrate the changing of the semesters with health- and career-related events has been transformed into a chance for students and community members to learn a bit about different cultures, foods and religions.

The fourth annual Diversity and Cultural Awareness Day takes place Monday at Dirigo High School.

“The staff and students felt there wasn’t a lot of diversity here so we decided to bring the world to us,” Principal Dan Hart said.

Organizing the event this year is Norm Greenberg, the school’s learning lab coordinator.

“The students are used to studying things from books, but this brings some of those ideas to life; it livens their perspective,” he said, “and every single person is from Maine.”

Nearly 30 presenters ranging from a Holocaust survivor, a former Iranian citizen and Native Americans, to activist groups who speak against domestic, sexual-biased and gender-based violence will tell their stories or serve their foods at some point during the day.

Local farmer Laurie Ackley will discuss agriculture, a West African group will demonstrate drumming techniques and a representative from the Little People of America will tell her story.

Dani Tompkins, one of the students who helped organize the event, contacted people from the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project and the Proud Rainbow Youth of Southern Maine.

Other students, such as sisters Kristen and Carrie Bernard, sought out other people or organizations for the day’s event.

“We tried to find people from other countries to tell us what it’s like to live there,” said Kristen.

While the primary purpose of diversity day is to broaden the perspectives of local students and community members, Greenberg said many of the topics discussed will also be integrated into social studies, history, government and other classes.

The day begins with an assembly at 8:15 a.m. when a spokesperson will discuss bias prevention, violence and degrading language. A second assembly begins at 11:15 a.m. when James Francis discusses the Penobscot Nation. Other presenters will be scattered throughout the high school all day.

Any parent or community member who wishes to attend Monday’s events is welcome and should call the high school at 562-4251.

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