In April, Kennett High School welcomed high school students, teachers, and school personnel to the 17th Annual Multicultural and Diversity Awareness Conference. The day was full of thought-provoking workshops organized by a student committee and led by students, educators, and adults who are all well versed in multicultural affairs. The event was kicked off by Mr. Ray Fernandez, the program coordinator and the assistant principal of Kennett High School.
Mr. Fernandez opened the gathering by sharing that the conference is the highlight of the school year for him. “Every year,” he announced, “I look forward to this special event because it’s an awesome opportunity for all of us to not only learn, but to participate and receive a positive and rewarding experience.”
He continued by encouraging the students attending to become involved in the discussions throughout the day. “We want you to be an active participant, not a passive listener,” he said. “Listen, but also speak and ask questions, as well. Offer your thoughts and opinions.”
Following the thoughtful words of Mr. Fernandez, the superintendent of Kennett Consolidated School District, Dr. Barry Tomasetti, took the opportunity to say a few words and to applaud Mr. Fernandez’ hard work in making the Multicultural and Diversity Conference a highly anticipated event hosted by the District for 17 years.
Next to the podium was Kennett High School freshman Johnette Boddy who eloquently introduced the influential keynote speaker, Mr. John Suggs, community activist and executive director of CF Charities in Philadelphia.
The day included two workshop sessions, a wonderful lunch buffet filled with options that reflected the diverse backgrounds of the students, and a presentation by Emmy Award–winning HBO Associate Producer and Editor Mr. Courtland Bragg. Following the afternoon workshops, the day concluded with a student talent show.
Keyanna has volunteered at the conference since her freshman year. She is a member of both UNIDAD and Ujima, student groups focusing on Latino and African-American student leadership.
“I enjoy the Multicultural Conference because it enables me to step out of my comfort zone,” Keyanna says. “I get to meet new people and share ideas.”
Mrs. Tania Ramos Oton, a teacher from Esperanza Academy in Philadelphia, has been bringing students to the Multicultural and Diversity Awareness Conference for years. She comments that she welcomes the opportunity to expose her students from North Philadelphia to a youth conference about diversity. Two of her students, sophomore Wily Lopez and freshman Andrick Medrano, were looking forward to their workshop choices, stating that both held the potential to help them in their daily lives.
Students from 16 different schools attended the conference. All took away a heightened appreciation for their diverse cultural backgrounds. Mr. Fernandez explains that, “We are all unique, but we share the same dreams, struggles, and fears. It is this joining together and the safe space we provide at this conference that helps students realize that although we may be slightly different on the outside, we are all the same on the inside.”