This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
The greater Indianapolis community is diverse in race, ethnic groups and religions. With that diversity comes the need for quality cultural programming for youth and families.
“The state of so many issues in our country is based around deep-rooted racism that is set up in our institutions,” said Natalie Spriggs-Trobridge, youth program director at Peace Learning Center. “The more that people understand this, the more that we can work on dismantling it. That is how we create equity to give everyone a fair shot in life!”
Peace Learning Center offers a variety of programming, some of which focuses on biases. The center also offers anti-racism workshops for adults who work in schools. While they discuss a wide variety of cultures based on the needs of the schools, Spriggs-Trobridge noted that recently many have been interested in learning about and preventing Islamophobia.
To encourage more cultural programming in educational settings, Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), has sponsored Senate Bill 337, which would require all Indiana high school students to take an ethnic studies class before they graduate. As written, the specific ethnic group to be studied would not be mandated.
“I’ve always thought in K-12 curriculum there was a void of information on contributions of minority groups in this country,” said Taylor.
Taylor said he did not learn about the contributions of people like Madame C.J. Walker, Elijah McCoy and George Washington-Carver until he went to college. He believes that learning about historic figures such as these earlier in his life would have motivated him more in school.
“It gave me a sense of knowledge of what people who look like me have contributed to this country,” said Taylor. “To me, that’s how you keep a student interested.”
Yecenia Tostado, senior program director at the Indiana Latino Institute, agreed on this concept. Her organization focuses on improving health and education resources for Latino individuals by encouraging students through various academic support programs, maintaining advocacy efforts throughout the state and conducting research and holding town hall meetings to offer “accurate snapshots” of the Latino community.
“Cultural diversity in curriculum is important to engage students,” said Tostado. “It is important for curriculum to include representation of a myriad of cultures, ethnicities and genders to help students find and value their own voices, histories and cultures.”
According to Spriggs-Trobridge, there are many ways for families and youth to get involved in learning to embrace cultural differences.
She said, “Go through anti-racism workshops. Work on your own institution (school, work, church, etc.) to get others to go through anti-racism workshops; then come up with a plan, together, on how to dismantle racism in said institutions. Read books written from authors outside of your own race/cultural identity; start a book club that does this so it can be discussed. Go to city meetings to see what issues are affecting our cities. Join the PTO and help it become diverse so all voices are heard.”
Spriggs-Trobridge recommends the follow organizations that also offer anti-racism workshops:
For Tostado, she hopes citizens wishing to support cultural programming and diversity will “attend programs that teach about these topics, support or donate to organizations that provide this type of programming or advocate for policies that improve the lives of these groups.”
Taylor believes cultural programming for Hoosier youth can help all people do better in business and education, engage in more productive conversations and keep up in a world that is growing closer together.
“To me, this puts us in a position where we start to learn about and respect the differences we have,” he said.
To put it simply, individuals like Spriggs-Trobridge, Taylor and Tostado expect more accessible cultural programming will bring about greater understanding for different walks of life.
As Spriggs-Trobridge said, “Without that understanding, things cannot change.”