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Essay contest inspires youth to write about diversity|
By Celena E. Kusch
At the 1900 Paris Exposition and Worlds Fair, sociologist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois prophesied that the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line. Over a century later, global society is still attempting to erase the dividing lines between differences of all sorts, including race, age, ability and sexuality. According to Dr. Patreese Ingram, assistant professor of agricultural and extension education, diversity awareness will soon be an important prerequisite for life in the 21st century.|
If we project our population into the year 2025, in Pennsylvania alone, Ingram explained, the Hispanic and Asian-American populations are expected to double, and the African American population is expected to grow, as well. Our demographics are changing, and even if we dont see it in our communities now, all communities will have much greater diversity by the time our children grow up and enter the workforce.
Ingram, who received the 2000 National Annual Award for Diversity from the U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, has developed a number of Penn State Cooperative Extension programs that educate young people about diversity and promote greater awareness and acceptance. Her projects are in the areas of diversity education, character education and international youth programs.
Dr. Ingram provides outstanding intellectual and educational leadership for Penn State Cooperative Extensions diversity education programming, Dr. Theodore R. Alter, associate vice president for outreach, director of Cooperative Extension and associate dean, said. Receiving the USDA National Award for Diversity is an extraordinary recognition and a great tribute to her work and leadership.
Ingram recently chaired a Diversity Essay Contest for middle and high school students in Centre, Clearfield and Clinton counties.
Penn State Outreach and Cooperative Extension really wants to promote diversity as an important ingredient in preparing our youth to be good citizens and future leaders in our communities. We wanted to challenge youth to think and write about why it is important to appreciate and value diversity in our communities, Ingram said.
Outreach and Cooperative Extension and the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity sponsored the contest, with support from the Outreach Partnership Fund. Students addressed the issue of diversity and difference defined broadly. Some essay topics included a first encounter with a child of another race, the importance of the immigrant experience and the challenge of overcoming prejudices against disabilities or sexual orientation.
Ingram noted that one goal of the contest was to encourage students to think about people who are different and to recognize that even though we have many differences and many different backgrounds that we also have many similarities in the most basic and important ways. These essays really did say that, she added.
Eight winners, representing schools from three counties, were awarded cash prizes, and one winner was featured with Ingram on Penn State Public Broadcastings Take Note, a public-affairs program produced by WPSX-TV.
In her Take Note interview, winner Samantha Schoffner, a seventh-grader at Park Forest Middle School in State College, Pa., commented, I hope people who would read my essay and others would realize were not all so different and that we can be similar in other ways, too.
Winning and honorable mention essays will be published in a print monograph, as well as on the Web at http://agexted.cas.psu.edu/diversity.html.