2011 Bezos Scholar Sarah Sinclair and educator Davan Dodrill worked to educate their community about the need for tolerance, and better understanding the negative impact of intolerance with their Local Ideas Festival, Teens for Tolerance.
Sarah and Davan found that feminism, cultural diversity, and LGBT rights are a part of their Columbus Alternative High School inclusion policy, yet many students were not familiar with these topics. In response, Sarah and Mr. Dodrill hosted their Local Ideas Festival, Teens for Tolerance.
Their three-day festival featured speakers addressing the values of tolerance and the harm that may come to these vulnerable communities when tolerance is not practiced. They achieved this through interactive workshops aiming to combat harmful stereotypes, allowing for highly interactive group discussions.
On the first day, participants attended a keynote speech on human trafficking and then chose from an array of workshops on sexuality, reproductive rights, rape culture, women’s activism, religion and reproductive choice, and the history of feminism. The first day concluded with a performance of creative writing and readings and a slam-poetry session.
During the second day, a performance drummer spoke on their childhood, informed by their identifying as a black lesbian and the related problem of homophobic bullying. Workshops on this day included a community-resources panel, a discussion of transgender identification, a singing performance, and the topic of surrogacy. The second day concluded with a keynote presentation on The Laramie Project and local LGBTQ+ law.
The final day of Teens for Tolerance was celebrated with a potluck and performance by the CAHS Black History Dance Troupe. Workshop topics included immigration, a discussion on the historical roots of racism, diversity in school curriculum, voter disenfranchisement, cross-cultural competencies, and a presentation on the authenticity of Chinese restaurants.
“The depth, breadth, and interactive quality of our speakers’ presentations were amazing in increasing awareness of feminism, LGBTQ+ issues, and cultural diversity,” shares Sarah. “The greatest strength of our festival was the diversity of our speakers and the skill with which they fostered tolerance in the community. Our greatest success was opening the eyes of our attendees. They inspired real acceptance.”
Sarah shares more on her community change project in Student Story: https://bezosscholars.org/stories/dialogue-across-differences/