When Chesapeake High School held its inaugural Diversity Day last June to celebrate different cultures, the school’s media specialist, Geri Cvetic, realized she wanted to do something more. She wanted to expand the conversation to include race and equality.
On December 5, Chesapeake held Diversity Day to discuss human rights and the law, immigration and other topics. Guest speakers included community ambassador Jay Offer, mural and sidewalk artist Amy Panzer, professor and trial lawyer Patrick O’Guinn, immigration officer Jules Valencia, and Aziz Abdur-Ra’oof, a former NFL athlete who now spends his days mentoring students at Chesapeake and Northeast high schools.
Valencia spoke to students about refugees seeking asylum and the factors that allow them to apply for that status.
“I didn’t say that being poor gets you refugee status,” she told the students. “One way is that you fear someone is going to hurt you or kill you.”
O’Guinn talked about how he became a police officer early in his career because he wanted insight into the prejudice demonstrated by some officers. He later mentored others who wore a badge.
“I’ve been able to teach future officers to do your job, tell the truth and treat everyone with respect,” he said.
Later in the day, students discussed topics that were prepared by Cvetic. The room became silent when senior Lauren Ortega spoke about her experience being biracial in a school that has had several racial incidents in the last year.
“I felt like we needed to talk about it because there’s so many emotions people go through and it’s so hidden,” she said, reflecting on her speech. “People don’t learn about [other races] and that’s why we have these issues here.”
Check back for more information on Human Rights Day.