“They’d never get an opportunity like this in the classroom,” Liza Escott said as she looked around at the hundreds of students sharing and learning from one another at Lyman Memorial High School’s Diversity Fair.
A student committee planned the fair that involved the entire Lebanon school’s community last week. Students ran the majority of the 35-plus booths and had the opportunity to share their interests with their peers and teachers.
“I was most impressed with how many students wanted to host a booth and share a personal interest with other students and teachers,” said Escott, the school’s diversity coordinator and an English teacher.
Escott said that the fair teaches students confidence in presenting and allows older students to be positive role models for younger ones. “A lot of time and effort goes into putting the booths and presentations together,” she said.
Lebanon Education Association President Kevin Brodie, a history teacher at the school, said that students design the booths so that each has an interactive activity for visitors to complete.
The fair ran for a few years in the mid-2000s but was cut due to a lack of funds. In 2011, Brodie and Escott resurrected the fair with grant funding from CEA and other partners.
Thanks to Brodie and Escott, the fair is no longer an isolated, one-day event, but part of a year-long diversity program. The students chose, “The Power of One” as this year’s theme, and other events included participation in Connecticut’s Youth Forum and visits from a number of guest speakers, including Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo. On May 14, Paul Rusesabagina, who protected 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide as portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” will speak at the school.
A Diversity of Interests
Lyman students presented on a wide variety of interests that included sports, languages, dance, religions, self-wellness, Anime, and Relay for Life. The Lyman community also invited students from the Norwich Free Academy to come and share their countries and/or cultures of origin.
Lyman seniors Emmarhia Wylie and Emily Campbell ran a booth on bullying that was popular with many students. Wylie said she was interested in the subject because “I have gone through bullying myself, and I’ve seen a lot of bullying at Lyman.”
Campbell said that she was bullied in middle school and has seen the hard time that her brother has experienced as well. She designed her senior project about bullying because “I felt passionate about doing something about the issue.”
The bullying booth changed students’ perspectives by asking them to write a negative name that they have been or could be called on a name tag and to wear it all day. Wylie said that the name tags were all gone in the first five minutes.
Brodie said that the student response to the fair has been very positive in recent years. “And there are lots of staff members involved,” he said. “Even if they’re not helping to run a booth, they’re here supporting the students.” Brodie added, “The positive response is why we keep doing it.”