By Michael Vitron, '12, '13
Three students and two staff members traveled to the 22nd annual National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) International Conference in Philadelphia last week.
This year’s conference, held from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, explored the role of multicultural education in movements toward equity and social justice at local, national and global levels.
Angell Benjamin, a junior English and psychology double-major; Tiffany Nunez, a senior sociology major, and Jacob Witter, a senior childhood studies major, gave a presentation titled “Back to the Future: Travels of St. Francis, Slamming “Thisness,” and a Diversity Workshop for Student Teachers.”
The student presenters shared their experiences with “Thisness,” or ¬individual uniqueness, to the panel through skits, prose, poetry and dance. “Thisness” is the title of St. Bonaventure’s current anti-bullying campaign, and it calls for unique individuality to be celebrated, not chastised.
Yvonne Makl, the Damietta Center coordinator who, along with Dr. Anne-Claire Fisher, associate professor in the School of Education, accompanied the students to the conference, said the presentation was the product of over one year’s work.
“In the fall semester of 2011, a meeting occurred between the director of the Damietta Center, the director of field placement and a faculty member to brainstorm ideas of how to make the diversity workshop more credible in the eyes of student teachers and not resort to simply talking ‘about’ diversity,” Makl said. “Students met with adults and ideas flowed from their own personal experiences of public school.”
Last spring, Makl sent a written proposal to NAME in hopes that St. Bonaventure students could present at the conference. At the beginning of October, she received a confirmation email, and planning began.
“While being absolutely excited and so proud of the Damietta Center diversity students, my immediate challenge was to secure funding to get the students to Philadelphia,” Makl said. “And, with sincere gratitude, I thank Rick Trietley, vice provost for student fife, Dr. Joseph Zimmer, dean of the School of Education, and the Student Government Association, who contributed and made it possible for the students to present their workshop at the conference.”
Makl said the NAME conference was a unique opportunity for teachers, administrator, student support teachers, community activists and multicultural education advocates to share resource, build networks, confront challenges and renew the vision of possibilities.
“It was great just being there and proudly watching our students conduct their workshop,” she said. “But for me the greater experience overall was the opportunity to have watched them find their voice and to witness a growing confidence and leadership. I know they will long recall, throughout their lives, their experience and participation with diverse scholars.”