Diversity awareness art project unites Kutztown, North Philly students

Kutztown Area High School received a visit from students from Hill Freedman Academy of North Philadelphia on April 11.
Kutztown Area High School received a visit from students from Hill Freedman Academy of North Philadelphia on April 11. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media

Kutztown Area High School received a visit from students from Hill Freedman Academy of North Philadelphia, creating a diversity awareness art project with a select group of Kutztown students on April 11.

“We used art and we used multi-media to create understanding of diversity,” said Kutztown High School Assistant Principal Edward Myers. “What diversity means to different students. Those students had an opportunity to use that concept and apply it to art. It was a collaborative activity that we did.”

The two groups of students - 32 from Kutztown and 16 from North Philadelphia - created a collaborative art project together, each coloring a piano key and writing a word that describes themselves. Each school will have a copy of the completed art project they created together that they can look back on.

Myers said the goal was to raise diversity awareness and show how to make the world a little bit more of an understanding place.

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Students also had the opportunity to share their perspectives about diversity on video. The videos will be used to create public service announcements.

Myers hopes the two groups of students learn that diversity is a key concept in everyone’s life.

“We live in a diverse world and the more that we communicate and the more that we collaborate and work to understand each other, not only are we going to get along better as human beings, but we’re going to be able to problem solve and do great things in the world together.”

The visit by the Hill Freedman students was part of the program called the World L.A.B.S. School Community Collaborative. Myers said Kutztown also currently has a World L.A.B.S. Leadership Collaborative and a World L.A.B.S. Business Collaborative. The L.A.B.S. acronym stands for Languages, Arts, Business, and Social Sciences.

Kutztown and Hill Freedman have been visiting one another’s schools over the past couple years, starting with a small group of students and increasing the number of participants over time. The first group of Kutztown students were sophomores and continue to participate as seniors. New students have joined over the years.

“We look to build their involvement in the future,” he said.

The overall goal of the program is to promote concepts such as diversity awareness, cultural understanding and collaboration, acceptance and tolerance.

“All those skills that we need, not only as people but as business people in our chosen professions, to be out in the world and understanding better and to get along,” said Myers. “That’s what we really want the students to understand and just to bring them closer together and provide opportunities.”

Kutztown seniors Jillian Siefert, 17; Olivia Sica, 18; Kennedi Cavalier, 17; and Amaya Deck, 18, have participated since their sophomore year.

“I get really excited to see everybody (from Hill Freedman),” said Siefert. “We’ve grown together and we’ve all bonded and we had a friendship grow. It’s really nice to see them.”

Siefert said Kutztown is a small, close knit school so having the students from Hill Freedman come gives them a different perspective of a school in a city.

“I hope that this program keeps growing and more people get involved because it’s a lot of fun,” said Siefert.

Sica enjoyed the opportunity to interact with people from Philadelphia who are her age.

“Being able to interact with them and learning about the city is one of the reasons why I applied to Temple,” said Sica. “Just being able to talk to new people opened my perspective.”

Sica said many of the Hill Freedman students had never seen a cow before while she had never ridden on the subway.

“It helps us to create friendships,” added Sica. “When we went over there, I was astounded at how easily we were able to connect with each other. We were friends in like two minutes. It was awesome.”

Cavalier said it was great to meet people from Philadelphia and see how their school is different from Kutztown.

“We can all connect even though we’re from two different areas,” said Cavalier. “We connected immediately.”

Cavalier said creating the art project together explains who they are and how they can all connect even though they are different.

Deck said participating in the program has been a great experience.

“I’ve been able to meet a lot of new kids,” said Deck. “Because our school is so close and so small, it opens up the horizons to other situations that go on in other places.”

Hill Freedman senior Brandon Lima, 18, said, “Today’s visit gave me more insight about not only how different Philly and Kutztown is, tractor races and stuff like that, but most importantly the difference in culture I think is really big but shows that everybody can get along.”

Lima said it’s not about traveling distances, “It’s a matter of taking the step to investigate new cultures. I think this is a wonderful opportunity.”

Hill Freedman senior Diego Joseph, 18, said, “I think it’s a good experience for every high schooler because sometimes we’re just encased in one area, whereas now we can travel and meet other high schoolers who are going through the same struggles that we are because we’re all teenagers.”

The day spent visiting Kutztown was a learning experience for Joseph.

“We get to meet so many great people who are just like us,” said Joseph. “They have a heart just like us... A lot of laughs, a lot of love.”

Joseph expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to visit Kutztown.

“The love is real. We love you guys so much and I just hope this keeps going,” said Joseph.

The Hill Freedman students and Kutztown students hugged one another before the Philly students headed back home on their bus.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.