“Heritage Panels” Give Diverse Students Outlet for Expression

By Christina Jiminez

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – When students graduate from high school, they’ve been educated in history, English, math and science. But unfortunately for some, bullying and racism are included. The YWCA,Young Women’s Christian Association, works to help affected students through a program known as the Heritage Panel.

Heritage Panel is an inclusive group of high school students that encourage their peers to make school a more welcoming place to be. Their main focus is to eliminate racism, promote peace and empower women. The panel discusses important and ignored issues that may affect their schools. The Americorps members facilitated the Heritage Panel. Americorps is a non profitable civil society program that is supported by the federal government.

“Many students have said Heritage Panel has had a profound effect on them and realized they have more in common with their classmates than differences,” said Joan Witherspoon Norris, director of social justice program for the YWCA.  

Heritage Panel is currently available at 17 high schools in the Central Alabama region.

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The Dean of Education at the University of Alabama, Peter Hlebowitsh, believes that the Heritage Panel can make a positive impact on students at a young age.

“There is nothing more important than trying to improve your life condition for your fellow peers and yourself for those after you or with you. I admire that,” said Hlebowitsh. “They say diversity is the spice of life. That’s wrong; it’s the essence of life.”

Students at the University of Alabama like David Fonseca have noticed that people in high school have become more accepting of others’ differences.

“I think it’s good schools are having these types of programs especially the world we live in now,” Fonseca said. “You are going to meet different people on a daily basis.”


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