High schoolers discuss race relations at schools

High schoolers discuss race relations at schools
October 01
00:00 2015

By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle

At a time when race relations are the headlines in many news reports, the Human Relations Department of Winston-Salem wanted to know how the students in the area felt about race relations at their own schools.

On Thursday, Sept. 24 at Parkland High School, the Human Relations Department gathered a diverse group of students from each public high school in Winston Salem/Forsyth County to discuss the state of race relations at their respective schools

Students from Forsyth Country Day, a private school in Forsyth County, were also present during the forum.

Human Relations Director Wanda Allen-Abraha was a key organizer for the event. She said she couldn’t wait to hear what the students had to say about current race issues in the country and how it effects their schools.

“I can’t wait to hear these wonderful students voice their opinions,” said Allen-Abraha. “During the pre-screening I heard a number of interesting points made by a number of students.”

According to Allen-Abraha, the guidance counselors at each school selected the students.

“We wanted to have all the schools in the county represented, and we were able to do that,” said Allen-Abraha. “This group is very diverse and is eager to be heard.”

During the forum titled “Changing voices of diversity,” students discussed peer relationships, perceptions in classrooms and stereotypes. Students also talked about their generation’s view toward racial attitudes, their personal experiences and the overall relevance of diversity for youth today.

Josh Ballin, a senior at West Forsyth, said although he goes to a very diverse school, when he walks into some of his classrooms, its hard to tell.

“West is a very racially diverse school,” said Ballin. “But when I walk into some of my AP or Honors classes, that diversity isn’t shown.” I think that is something we should really work on.”

A number of students echoed Ballin’s statements during the forum. According to a number of students from multiple schools minorities, although a big part of the schools population are less likely to be enrolled in AP or Honor courses.

“It’s really sad. I think that is something the school board should really work on.” Ballin said.

When it came to discussing the race-related issues that are happening in America today, some students said they did not discuss them during school, while others said they had teachers who would spark those conversations among the students during class.

Nonnie Egbuna, a senior at Parkland High School, said after participating in the forum that she feels good about the state of race relations at her school compared to others.

“At Parkland we have teachers who will come in and ask us what is going on in the news, which will spark conversations,” Egbuna said. “I think race relations here is a good because we have teachers like Mr. Jeffers who spark those conversations.”

Tripp Jeffers, a teacher at Parkland High School, helped Nonnie start the Mandela Society, a organization that teaches students to talk about difficult issues.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian H. Burke attended the forum. She said she was impressed by what she saw and heard.

“This is truly an extraordinary event,” Burke said. “These students are our future, and after listening to them talk today, I will say our future looks very bright.

According to Allen-Abraha, the panel of students will meet again during the spring to discuss ways to improve race relations at their schools and how they have changed.

Fredrick Evans, a senior at Mt. Tabor, said although the forum was a good idea and next time he hopes more students and school board officials will attend in the spring.

“Today was a good start, but look around. There are a lot of empty seats in here,” said Evans. “If we really want to make a difference, we need more participation from students and the entire school board.”






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