New Club Promotes Diversity And Acceptance For All

New Club Promotes Diversity And Acceptance For All

The next DIVE meeting is Wednesday Oct. 17th at 3:00 in Mrs. Kistler’s room.

Erica Bourland, Assistant Editor

“You can say ‘One Family, One Team’ all you want. That doesn’t make it true,” Senior DIVE president Jessi Ayres said.

Since her sophomore year, Ayres has sensed a void in the school. She had an idea of what she wanted, but never knew how to achieve it. Then, last year, one of her friends was victimized while she sat in English class. Another student went on a tirade, verbally abusing Ayres’ friend, saying terrible things such as “all gays should be sent to concentration camps.” Along with Collin Palmore and Jacie Haggard, who both graduated last year, Ayres researched the legality of diversity clubs and called several organizations, asking for sponsorship.

“Last year, we had a mock meeting,” Ayres said. “We had this dreamer’s image of what we really wanted. With the help of our teacher sponsor, Mrs. Kistler, we decided on the name DIVE, which is an acronym for Declare Integrity; Validate Effectively.”

On Nov. 28th, the site-based decision committee, which is made up of administrators, teachers, and parents within the school, will decide whether or not DIVE will become an official club. According to Ayres, DIVE legally should be approved because Texas GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Network has sponsored the club.

“We don’t officially exist, but we’ve had gatherings to see if we had enough interest,” Senior English teacher Yvonne Kistler said. “Mrs. McDonald has looked at the mission statement and thinks it is a good idea.”

According to the statement, the mission of DIVE is to educate young people about acceptance and tolerance of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation and to help reinforce the ideal of “One Family, One Team.”

“Several students have asked me if it was a Gay/Lesbian club, and it’s not, though we do have backing from GSA if we need it. It’s more about accepting everyone,” Kistler said.

DIVE aims to promote respect and acceptance for all. According to Ayres, acceptance means that you don’t have to agree with or accept someone’s ideas, but you should accept the person.

“I’m going to be honest,” Ayres said. “There are people at Rider who have committed hate crimes against other students. It has to stop somewhere. If it stops at Rider–if we stop it at just one school–we’re closer to equality, which means that there is acceptance, regardless of your background, what you think, or how you look.”

Kistler became aware of bullying on Facebook and Twitter, so when Ayres approached her about the idea of a diversity club, she agreed, as long as one of the aims could be anti-bullying.

“What people don’t realize is that bullying affects all of us, not just the person being bullied,” Ayres said. “The school could get a lawsuit. Students could be forced into a grieving process because someone ended up killing themselves.”

Administrators have taken action against bullying, but a majority of the time, they cannot do anything about it simply because they don’t know it is happening. Students, on the other hand, either experience the bullying itself, hear about it from their friends, or see it on social networking sites.

“We want to, as the name suggests, declare what we stand for; we want to educate people,” said Ayres. “My hope is that there will be a climate adjustment within our school. I want to get to a point where we don’t have so many incidents where people get physically or emotionally hurt. Just by raising awareness and educating people about acceptance, I think we will impact the school’s environment in how students relate to each other.”

There has been overwhelming support from teachers. Kistler believes this is because teachers, like herself, see the effects of bullying on their students. They see that DIVE can be an important tool in helping distressed students.

“I think that I’m an empathetic person and that I have a clear understanding of what people go through,” Ayres said. “I want for there to be a place for people that they can go and find friends, people they can talk to who understand.”

DIVE will also become active in its community. At meetings, you’ll find members making posters to hang around the school, planning volunteer projects, and discussing current events dealing with bullying.

Right now, DIVE has twelve members, but Ayres is looking forward to having more people join when the club becomes official.

“We will be open to anyone. You don’t have to run fast, jump high, or be a fashionista. You can just come on in,” Kistler said.

The next DIVE meeting is Wednesday Oct. 17th at 3:00 in Mrs. Kistler’s room.