Illinois State Chapter Receives Award for Multicultural Education and AwarenessJuly 20, 2012 | Bloomington, Ill.
The power of diversity is recognized at College Mentors’ Illinois State University chapter.
In May, College Mentors for Kids recognized several exceptional chapters, student leaders, and partners through the Chapter Awards. Around the same time, universities also presented awards to exceptional student organizations.
The Illinois State University chapter of College Mentors for Kids was recognized by the university as the Outstanding Diversity and Multicultural Program of 2011-2012. This is the chapter’s first award from the university.
The Outstanding Diversity and Multicultural Program award is presented each academic year by Illinois State University to a student-led program that has “dedicated itself to building positive interaction among cultures, promoted awareness of cultures and global issues through student engagement, and provided opportunities for students to learn about the importance of diversity and multiculturalism.”
Associate Program Director Erin Cosler, who oversees the Illinois State chapter, reflected on the importance of College Mentors’ culture and diversity activities.
“Culture and diversity is one of the three topics that all College Mentors’ activities follow, and Illinois State exposed its kids and mentors to several new cultural experiences,” Cosler said. “Our emphasis on diversity extends beyond just trying to teach the children to appreciate other cultures. The college students also learn how to work with children who come from different backgrounds – we are not only trying to raise awareness of racial and ethnic diversity, but socioeconomic and community diversity as well.”
For example, the chapter visited a number of bilingual student groups, saw a step club perform a routine, and had a fiesta where the kids learned how different cultures celebrate birthdays.
The Illinois State chapter has a unique demographic make-up: about a quarter of the kids are Caucasian, a quarter are African-American, a quarter are Hispanic, and the other quarter are multi-racial. The abundance of diversity at the Illinois State chapter leads to extensive cultural learning and growth opportunities for mentors and children throughout the year.
Jennifer Swiderski, a senior majoring in education and Illinois State’s chapter president, said she is more aware of the diversity in the Bloomington community because of College Mentors for Kids.
“It really opened my eyes to how these children live, and there is certainly more to diversity than the language that we speak or the color of our skin,” Swiderski said, “As the college students and elementary children learn about each other, they learn to celebrate the fact that they can be united regardless of their differences.”
The diversity of the Illinois State chapter is also noticeable in its student leadership. Claudia Lamas, vice president of the Illinois State chapter, is a first-generation college student and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Lamas has been an invaluable asset to many of the Hispanic elementary students because she provides a tangible model of success for children of similar heritage.
Swiderski is upbeat about the potential impact the recognition could have on the chapter.
“I hope that this award will allow us to continue promoting our organization to professors and other students on campus,” she said. Swiderski believes that this publicity of the great work the chapter is doing will be instrumental in developing support in the community and spreading awareness of College Mentors for Kids.