Teens look beyond first impressions at diversity camp

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High school students are forging relationships outside of their race after a college preparatory program in Texas.

Before the camp, junior Janette Quezada says, “Mostly, I hung out with Hispanics.”

“I just mainly hung with people that were like me,” senior camp-mate Ariah Hoyle agreed.

Those exclusive relationships were challenged during a week-long camp, documented in personal videos. The videos tell stories about who the high-schoolers are and their place in the community.

Nokia gave the students cell phones to use as they toured area colleges. The non-profit Pearson Foundation and YWCA Fort Worth issued the challenge.

Pearson Foundation’s Vannessa Nickson said, “The overall idea was tell us, ‘Do you see yourself here? Do you see yourself attending here? Do you feel comfortable here?”

“What’s missing?” Nickson asks. “If this isn’t home for you, what’s missing there?”

Those questions forced the students to explore their own identities, reach out to other groups and discover similar experiences from different perspectives.

Carol Klocek of the YWCA says, “Create change. That’s really our end goal with all our programs to eliminate racism is to create change and who better to do that with than young people?”

Ariah Hoyle and Janette Quezada learned they attend the same high school. Strangers are now friends.

“Once I got here and got to know everybody and how they work, it was fun,” said Hoyle. “I shouldn’t judge people by the way they look.”

Quezada agreed. “The first impression shouldn’t be your judgment. It should be getting to know the person and actually know who they are.”

The students’ videos will premiere at a special event in September.