Last Thursday, Salt Lake Community College was treated to a special presentation from guest speaker Rebecca Sanchez on how to understand and communicate with people different than we are. The event was put on by the mayor’s office of diversity affairs and the students. The workshop provided insights on how to get along with students from all backgrounds.
Students attending the workshop learned how to identify similarities with people rather than only point out what is apparently different and focusing on that. Students also learned about “Uh-Oh” moments, the moment when they see someone new and automatically assume by something they see that the person is somehow dangerous or not good to be around.
Sanchez asked students at one point to write down something about themselves that others had picked on, teased, tormented or misunderstood the students for. Several brave students were asked to read what they had written down.
“I was shaking,” Nick Pell, a gay student who was one of the brave students, said. “I was taking a risk but thought, ‘what does it matter? I accept myself.'”
Pell was one of the first students who talked to the group. Other students included a person who had at one point been in prison and a student who had been shamed in school for being Polynesian.
“[The workshop] opens people’s minds a little to other’s point of view.” Marie Sturm said. Sturm announced to the group that she was an ex-polygamist wife.
“I hate bringing attention to myself. There is that temptation to blend in. But part of me wants to defend that we’re being judged by the wrong information,” Strum said.
The workshop was an open forum to get to know students from a variety of backgrounds and demographics, fostered under an umbrella of understanding and tolerance. In a time where misunderstanding and misinformation are rampant, such workshops can not only shed light on untrue and hurtful stereotypes, but teach students to be more accepting of others.
“I’d like to extend a challenge to people,” said Pell, “to open your mouths to people and accept others.”