On January 11, more than 60 residents and community leaders joined Winooski School District administrators at the Casey Family Services headquarters to mark the completion of "Don't Hate, Appreciate!" -- a project celebrating the city's diversity. Fully 18 percent of the city's 800-plus public school students speak a native language other than English. Last year, Winooski teachers incorporated lessons on accepting differences in their classes. The effort culminated in a magazine, teacher's guide and documentary film.
Copies of the magazines were available at the gathering. The publication includes student writing, musical scores and drawings, many of which address racial and ethnic diversity. Ljiljana Rakovic describes coming to the United States from Bosnia. "When they think of my country," she writes, "they think of it as a desert, and a place where there is only war and hate. That is what it might have been while the war was going on, but now that it's over, Yugoslavia is just like it was before the war . . . we have homes, and large, tall buildings, big shopping centers, nice cars, everything you have in the United States."
Devon Lapan writes about a classmate who moved to Vermont from Africa three years ago. "Veronique Lumumba," Lapan writes, "for your courage, I respect you and would be proud to be your friend."
The book also addresses universal adolescent concerns. Above her drawing of several smiling faces, middle-schooler Lauren Graves explains her inspiration: "I chose faces because faces are something that everybody has and that is diverse on each person," she writes. "I added braces to some of the faces because a lot of people have braces whether they want them or not. I also added them because I have braces."