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Graham Elementary and Middle School's Better World Project Spotlighted

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    Sarah Norris

"When Cultures Collide," a project at Graham Elementary and Middle School (GEMS) in Columbus, Ohio, is one of 18 winning Better World Projects in the inaugural year of this initiative.

GEMS proposed that "seventh grade students will grapple with what it means to have courageous conversations across cultural differences, working to create positive dialogue in a city struggling with the turbulent aftermath of an American American young man shot by police. Their work will include historical studies of race and civil rights and current research in the community. Through interviews and photojournalism, they hope to bring together city council members, clergy, police, and citizens for positive and restorative dialogue."

Now, the work of students and teachers in the context of this project is being noticed and celebrated in their community. In an article for This Week News, some of those students have interviewed reflected on the project. 

The interviewees included Clintonville resident Doug Rutledge, co-author of “The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away.” Rutledge has worked with the refugee population in the United States, and Columbus in particular, for the past 15 years, most recently focusing on the large Bhutanese-Nepali community that has settled primarily in the Northland area.

Rutledge said he wanted to impart to the GEMS students how much the refugee population has strengthened central Ohio.

Nia Richardson is a GEMS graduate and currently a junior at Columbus State Community College and the Graham School in Clintonville. She said internships she has served with justice organizations in the region helped lead her to organize a youth group called Voices of the Unheard.

“I want them to ask questions about how they can do it, too,” she said.

“I had a wonderful time talking with young people about important issues that affect them,” said Bill Owens, executive director the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center. “We were able to have a really meaningful conversation around gun culture and how that plays out in their households and how they see that affecting society overall.

“It was gratifying to see young people so engaged about social issues and to be so positive about them.”

Solomon Ayalew, an Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrant who works with the Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services refugee settlement organization, said his goal in attending the GEMS event was to “help some children and young adults better understand the struggle of immigrants.”

Read more about GEMS students' work at This Week News

Read more about the Better World Project here