CLEVELAND — As America continues to progress towards a more inclusive and diversified society, students in the Shaker Heights school district are taking the conversation of race relations into their own hands and mentoring young students.
The students are a part of the Student Group on Race Relations, or SGORR, in Shaker Heights schools.
Monday night on WKYC.com, we presented our latest panel discussion as part of our "A Turning Point" series. 3News' Marisa Saenz and Dave 'Dino' DeNatale were your hosts for A Turning Point: Stop the Hate. The panel included Shaker students in the SGORR, who help mentor young students, along with parents of young students, and the advisor behind it all.
“We have difficult conversations that open people’s eyes,” SGORR advisor Tiara Sargeant told us in the panel.
Those conversations are spread throughout Shaker Heights’ schools and the ones facilitating the conversations are high school students.
“I think I started to notice things when I was younger, but I didn’t know how to articulate them or how to talk to anyone about them," recalled SGORR Student Leader, Erin Williams.
“[I just knew] I needed to become a leader,” added SGORR Student Leader, Zach Lehner.
Both seniors at Shaker Heights High School, Williams and Lehner are two of the 25 student leaders within the organization that mentor and educate elementary and middle schoolers, giving them a chance to talk through hard or uncomfortable topics.
“We really emphasize speaking from personal experience, because that’s the way people can learn the best,” Lehner said.
Student leaders teach students how to stand up against it if they witness hate or racism first-hand.
“[I really try] telling the kids ‘What do you think you can do to try and help the situation with what you are seeing happening’,” Williams said
Sargeant is a former Shaker Heights student herself and said she took on the role to keep the legacy going.
“[The purpose of SGORR is] to create and sustain black and white friendships within our school district,” Sargeant said.
Much like her child, who is a mentee within the SGORR program, Brooke Bribriesco is learning how to have open conversations about race in her family.
“My “aha” moment unfortunately came when I was a little bit older,” Bribriesco said. “There were a lot of questions that my children asked me that I actually didn’t have the answer to.”
Bribriesco said the open dialogue coming from SGORR has taught her children, and herself.
The SGORR program is over 30 years in the making and now a footprint in the Shaker Heights community.
“I want to see change and I think we really are seeing change in our community,” Sargeant said.
You can watch the full A Turning Point: Stop the Hate panel discussion from Monday night in the player below:
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