This year, Quitman High School has taken a stand and started the Multicultural Diversity Student Union, more commonly called the Multicultural Club.
The new club was actually created by students who desired to do something to create a positive change in both the school and the community.
“Terry Rogers was the brainchild in this. This is something that means a lot to him,” stated Ms. Shelley Rivers, one of the sponsors for the club. “He wants students of all cultures and backgrounds to come together as one to learn and appreciate everyone’s culture so that we can be more accepting as a student body here at Quitman High School.”
There were two different things that stood out to Terry that inspired him to create the Multicultural Club.
“I started this club after seeing some of the protests and riots for George Floyd. I saw all the cities burning after that case, and I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be our city,” explained Terry Rogers, president of the club. “Another thing that made me think about it was being in Ms. Rivers’ room and Ms. Thornburg’s room. It started off when we were in American history, and it was so quiet in there. With everything going on, I decided to just raise my hand one day and ask Ms. Thornburg how she felt about some of the different things going on. She and I started going back and forth about the Civil War, something almost forbidden in the South. It started out with just me and the teacher debating; then Ikia joined in, and then it gradually became the whole class. Then, we spread that to Ms. Rivers’ room, and I just though what it would be like if the whole school could do that.”
After taking the necessary steps, Terry and some other students and teachers were able to start up the new club. The club isn’t just about debating, though. They have much stronger goals in mind.
“We want to take people who don’t know much about other backgrounds and inform them about what other people go through,” informed Rillie Plummer, speaker of the house for the club. “We want to show them that we all have something in common and want to make them want to learn more and teach others about what other people go through in their backgrounds.”
By discussing the various backgrounds, they hope to make it easier to approach sensitive topics and help people form their own opinions instead of simply following along with learned opinions.
“It’s a lot easier to have uncomfortable conversations when you know how to properly communicate,” expressed Ikia McCormick, vice-president of the club. “A lot of politically based opinions are biased because of the way people are raised. They don’t really get their own perspective of things. It’s just how they grew up, so they don’t really know. When you have someone else to talk about stuff to, you get a better base opinion.”
One of the things the club does is to focus on character instead of physical characteristics.
“Everybody is going to have different opinions. There are a lot who will say I don’t see color, but it s true to say I do see your characteristics,” added Terry. “Just see each other’s different viewpoints and look at that point of view in different ways.”
The club does have an outline of precautions in place to make sure that everyone stays respectful during the discussions.
“Terry has written our club a constitution, and I think it’s great because it’s based on the original Constitution of the United States. It has all the guidelines for the group,” described Ikia. “If a conversation does get out of hand, we have a sergeant at arms. He can calm people down or deescalate situations that get out of control. We haven’t had any problems yet, but just in case, we do have different things in place for different outcomes.”
Although they just started up in August, they have developed a typical outline of how each meeting will go.
“We’re meeting twice a month. In the past, Terry has offered us a snippet of a video or a topic, and we’ve watched it, we’ve listened, and we’ve discussed,” stated Ms. Rivers. “What we hope to do is expand that to students of other cultures and backgrounds and have them present a piece of that culture, and then we have an open discourse on it.”
Despite the strong discussion topics, the club is very welcoming and loving to anyone who attends.
“The Multicultural Club is like a home away from home. When you feel like you can’t express your views to your parents because you’re still living in the house with them, the Multicultural Club is here for you. We’re all very understanding,” declared Rillie. “The most important thing about our club is that if you want to come, just be yourself. No one is going to judge you because no one has the space to judge.”
That family feeling is exactly what Terry had in mind when he first got the idea for the club. In fact, he didn’t just want the club to impact the school but the community as well. They have already started some community outreach programs by hosting a trunk or treat on the school practice field, and they would like to grow that community outreach in the upcoming years as the club grows.
“I want to make sure everybody has a voice. I may not be able to make sure everyone has a home, but I can make sure everyone has a voice and feels welcome,” stated Terry. “We try to be real interactive with the community in a bipartisan way. The main goal is really to make sure that everybody has fun, knows that they’re welcome, and knows that their voice and thoughts are heard.”
Although it is their first official year, they are already succeeding on achieving their goals. They are already inspiring many of the students at the school, and the underclassmen are making plans to make sure that the club continues in the future.
“I’m just a tenth grader. The twelfth graders took me in, and I feel like I’m one of them now. When you join the club, you just get more friends. It isn’t even about being known. They’re just real heartfelt with you; when you talk, they listen, and I try to do the same,” stated Slater Adams, sergeant at arms for the club. “When the seniors leave this year, I will try to keep the club going with Ms. Rivers and Ms. Thornburg.”
There is no fee or strict requirements for anyone to join the club. All a person has to do is attend a meeting and sign in so a record of attendance can be maintained.