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Hersey High School mural project promotes inclusiveness

A mural project in the works at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, created by the school’s minority students, will reflect students’ diverse cultural experiences and promote inclusiveness.

The school’s Latin American Student Organization, Black Student Union, DAY Asian Culture, Advocacy and Entertainment Club and Indo-Pak clubs kicked off the five-week Ethnic Mural Leadership project late last month.

“It is a schoolwide project,” said Michael Ayala, of Wauconda, Spanish teacher and Latin American Student Organization sponsor.

Ayala said the idea for the mural started out with just the Latino students and kept getting bigger as more student groups joined in.

Hersey’s student population is nearly 70% white, 15.7% Latino, 10% Asian and 1.3% Black.

“The goal of this mural is to bring all of the minority groups (together), to bring forward their voice in the school and give them the opportunity to learn leadership skills … so they can feel like they are at home and they can have a sense of belonging,” said Ayala, who has been teaching at Hersey for 28 years and recently was named Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year.

Roughly 60 students have been painting on four large canvasses that will go up on the wall across from the cafeteria. The finished mural will be unveiled at 11:30 am March 11, in the school’s gymnasium.

Black health

Elgin Community College’s celebration of Black History Month includes two virtual events this week focusing on Black health and wellness, mental health, healthy eating and relationships.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

At 2 pm Tuesday, local experts will examine biases in health care and the impact on Black communities. The MAGIC Black Lives Matter Series Part 9: “The Color of Health” will help Black families achieve healthier outcomes. Panelists include Dr. Janice Francis, Dr. Savannah Kimball, Dr. Erica Taylor, ECC professor of biology Dr. Luis Martinez, ECC professor of sociology Mia Hardy and ECC professor of physical therapy assistant Kim Tarver.

At 6 pm Thursday, a panel of experts will explore Black mental health and available services in the Black community. Panelists include independent clinical assessor Arlilian Hill, mental health advocate Danielle Owen and youth and family therapist Pagel Palmer Jr.

“For this year, we really wanted to lift the veil surrounding mental health within the Black community,” ECC wellness professional Jasmine Young said. “Oftentimes, help is not sought out from medical professionals within the Black community. This is one way to start the conversation because, typically, there’s so much stigma. There’s a lot of negative connotation around asking for help.”

The events are free and open to the public. Visit elgin.edu/.

Youth mental health

Kane County’s third annual Youth Voices Forum on Mental Health will be held from 8 to 9 am Wednesday.

A virtual panel of student speakers from across Kane County will share their personal experiences and talk about the importance of mental health in schools and communities and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. The program’s target audience is school administrators, community leaders, mental health professionals and parents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for mental health crises rose by 31% for children ages 12-17 years between March and October of 2020.

To register, visit bit.ly/3LKVKjT.

Islam and African Americans

The Mecca Center in Willowbrook will host a conversation Saturday on “Islam’s Impact on African Americans in the 20th Century.”

The talk begins after Maghrib prayer (5:40 pm) at the center located at 16W560 91st St. It will cover the transformational impact Islam had on African Americans in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and the history of the formation, development and contribution of African American in America.

Guest speakers are Imam Darnell Karim, Muslim chaplain at Rush University Medical Center, and Misbahu Rufai, a professor of African American History at Malcolm X College in Chicago.

Karim was an assistant and a childhood friend to the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, a theologian, philosopher and Muslim revivalist who disbanded the original Nation of Islam.

Social justice

Elmhurst University and DuPage High School District 88 are teaming up to offer a college-level course on social justice topics for students from the district’s two high schools.

Fifty-five students from Addison Trail High School in Addison and Willowbrook High School in Villa Park are enrolled in Explorations in Social Justice this spring.

The multidisciplinary course introduces students to contemporary equity and social justice issues. They can explore social movements and current events related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and class; and discuss how those concepts influence relationships and understanding. Students work with their high school teachers and Elmhurst University faculty members on topics such as immigration, residential segregation, justice, health care, criminal education and environmental racism.

“One of our top priorities at District 88 is to create and sustain an inclusive environment through ongoing equity work,” Superintendent Jean Barbanente said. “We know equity is a journey and we continue to look for ways to enhance this critical initiative and remove barriers to help all students achieve their goals.”

Black stories

Huntley High School will host a free community event, “Celebrating Black Stories: Narratives on Identity, Belonging and Community,” from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, in honor of Black History Month.

The program is being organized by Huntley Community School District 158’s Recognizing American Diversity (RAD) Committee, which aims to recognize, celebrate and discover diverse perspectives and identities that historically have been underrepresented. It includes a performance by the Jesse White Tumblers, musical entertainment, a student panel and guest speakers.

“We are so excited to be able to come together with the community to celebrate Black History Month and recognize the rich history that has been cultivated for generations,” said Marcus Belin, principal of Huntley High School. “RAD is such a valuable districtwide initiative because it allows our students to connect with not only the Huntley 158 community, but the world around them.”

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com.

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