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Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe A high school volunteer helps a student paint her portrait on a mural representing the diversity in skin color.

Students participate in the Color Project

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HERON LAKE -- While most of District 518's students spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day relaxing at home, a handful of students, along with Southwest Star Concept students, volunteered at the Color Project, hosted by the Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) in the SSC elementary school in Heron Lake.

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The Color Project aims to teach elementary school students about cultural awareness and the importance of service and equality.

Lakeyta Potter, integration and youth development coordinator at NCIC, explained that the Color Project is part of Tolerance Minnesota, an award-winning diversity education program that utilizes popular culture to teach about the importance and impact of all culture in our society.

The Color Project strives to remove the labels that are associated with skin color.

"Skin color isn't just black and white. There are many colors that make us all unique," Potter said.

The NCIC and Color Project volunteers set up multiple stations in the SSC elementary school gym to reinforce what the students had been taught in their classrooms about diversity.

Stations were all based on equality themes with titles like "I have a dream," and "I can make a difference." Students also made origami peace doves and traced their hands to create a unity hand wreath.

The focal point of the event, however, was a portrait mural that lined one of the gym walls.

Children mixed paints to create their own unique skin color and then painted self-portraits.

This activity was to help them realize that no one can be placed in simple categories like black and white.

David Reyes and Ernesto Fonseca, both from SSC, helped mix paints and then helped the students paint their images. Reyes and Fonseca are both active in the arts program of SSC, and their art teacher suggested they might enjoy volunteering for the Color Project.

"I'm here to help the kids make faces and make sure, you know, they don't draw them upside down," Fonseca, a junior, said with a laugh.

Reyes, a senior, said he thought it was good for the elementary students to spend their day learning about cultural diversity.

"It's fun," he said, "and I've been going to classes today and talking with them about Martin Luther King Jr. Day."

The self-portrait mural and the other projects created during the Color Project day will be displayed in classrooms and will remind students that peace makes a difference and the importance of getting along, Potter said.

Seventeen high school students helped with the event, funded through a Southwest Initiatives Foundation Impact Grant.

Potter said the event also teaches the high school students about leadership and the importance of volunteering.

"It's also an integrated event because they are from Worthington and SSC," she said.

This is Worthington Junior Maggie Sanchez's second year volunteering with the Color Project. This year, she read stories about diversity and Martin Luther King Jr. to the elementary students.

"I think it sends a good message and gets little kids to think about different cultures," she said.

Most of the volunteer students from Worthington are also involved in Dynamic 507, an after-school program that inspires youths from all cultures to come together to experience empowerment and dynamic leadership.

The Color Project was part of a collection of events planned by the NCIC in January, all aimed at encouraging students to show kindness through service.

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Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at http://throughthelookingglass.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7322
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