WATERVILLE VALLEY, New Hampshire ??вЂќ Monday was the federal holiday bearing his name, but on Wednesday, at Waterville Valley, 300 middle school students from around the state gathered in Waterville Valley to talk about diversity and to learn the true meaning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
In the morning, the students from Claremont Middle School, Exeter Coop Middle School, Franklin Middle School, Gorham Middle School, Newport Middle School and Bartlett Middle School of Lowell, MA, watched Eye of the Storm, an ABC News production that provides an examination of the realities of discrimination as experienced by actual students in the classroom of third grade teacher, Jane Elliott, whose demonstration shows how quickly children can succumb to discriminatory behavior. Following the viewing, students participated in diversity workshops at the Waterville Valley Conference Center and then reunited so representatives from each workshop could share what their group had learned.
Representing his group, Josh VanHise of the Claremont Middle School reported, “Don’t judge a book by its cover. You should treat people the way you want to be treated.”
In the afternoon, the students headed for the slopes of Waterville Valley, where lift tickets, equipment and lessons were provided to all workshop participants.
“Being on skis or a snowboard for the first time is the ultimate equalizer,” says Waterville Valley General Manager Tom Day. “What better way to follow up a morning of diversity workshops than to experience the lessons firsthand with other students of diverse cultures?”
Waterville Valley’s Cultural Diversity Day was organized by Wayne Jennings, Chairman of the New Hampshire Cultural Diversity Awareness Council. 2005 marked the fifth year of this unique program.
“Cultural Diversity Day is my way of making our state and our country a little bit better. We’re keeping Reverend King’s dream alive,” says Jennings. “It is because of the generosity and support of Waterville Valley and our other sponsors that we’ve been able to develop and grow this program.”
Cultural Diversity Day workshops were facilitated by teachers, state police officers and members of the armed services like U.S. Air Force Tech. Sergeant John Doucette of New Hampshire’s New Boston Air Force Base. In his third year with the program, Doucette is now a trainer of other facilitators. “With minorities making up only four percent of the State’s population, a lot of these kids don’t have an opportunity to meet other kids of different cultures,” says Doucette. “Despite their similarities, we make sure everybody is put in the shoes of those being discriminated against.”
“You know you’re doing something worthwhile,” says NHCDAC Chairman Wayne Jennings, “when a young boy walks away saying that the world is a better place as a result of this day’s program.”
For more information about Cultural Diversity Day or Waterville Valley, please visit www.waterville.com, or call 1-800-GO-VALLEY.