I first became conscious of the presence of prejudice within my community when I witnessed someone hurt by another’s words. Although one of my school’s most noteworthy characteristics is the open-minded and tolerant atmosphere, seeing a close friend hurt by someone else’s laughter made me realize that even in the most open communities, prejudice can continue to exist.
This realization made me feel indignation, frustration and hurt. I felt that someone needed to act. My first reaction was to speak of the incident with our headmistress so that she would see to it that this would not occur again. However, she asked me what I would like to do about the situation. This question made me realize that I, in fact, wanted to act. Together with a teacher who was also interested in making the International School of Brussels an, even more, broad-minded and understanding community, we began to decide the next steps.
An NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) workshop had already been conducted for about thirty-five 11th graders. When I asked anyone who had attended, their facial expression alone showed me that the day had held something special. I decided to continue working with NCBI. We brought together twenty-five students, faculty, and staff to be trained as Diversity Workshop Leaders through a two-day NCBI Train-the-Trainers course in October 2007. This group would then be able to share their knowledge with the rest of the school.
When I walked into the room on the first day of the NCBI Prejudice Reduction Workshop, there was a certain feeling of apprehension and hesitation. As we began to feel comfortable and open with one another the feeling of cooperation and tolerance born between us was indescribable – I had never felt anything like it. On the second day, we began practicing separate parts of the workshop ourselves, the first step towards passing on our message throughout the school.
With the strong support of the administration, we are now working towards passing on the methods of prejudice reduction we have learned and the appreciation for diversity which we have gained. Our first day-long workshop is planned for February 2008 and we plan to continue working with students in the high school, middle and elementary schools. Moreover, I am happy to know that my goals will continue as two students plan on taking my place next year and continuing to strengthen the importance of tolerance at our school. Most importantly, many of the participants have told me of a moment where they have made use of their workshop training in their personal life. Myself, I have been able to resolve arguments with more ease, control my emotions where necessary, see another’s point of view, and feel genuinely good about the way I deal with conflicts. The NCBI workshop has given me tools that are useful in every area of my life and imperative in the increasingly multicultural world we live in.
Saba Movahedi, 12th grader, and coordinator of the ISB Diversity Team