2016 Bezos Scholar Casey Chaffin and educator John Divelbiss used their Local Ideas Festival, Stories for Salem, to bring awareness of cultural diversity to their community.
Throughout the year, Casey and her team worked with middle school students to help them write their stories and capture accounts of diversity in their community. Throughout the process, students learned interview, photography, and writing skills through learning about their surroundings and working to alleviate tensions that often arise from a lack of information.
Stories for Salem culminated with the publication of student stories in a special Diversity Issue of the West Salem High School newspaper, as well as a celebratory festival. The event included speakers from Salem Human Rights Commission, Salem Islamic Center, a refugee advocate, a journalist and journalism professor, an Ethiopian student refugee.
“We created a setting in which people of different backgrounds could come together, put aside their differences, and just have a conversation,” shares Casey.