Rise of cultural diversity

Culture Diversity Club at West stands out


Kaylee Milem

West’s Cultural Diversity Club meets as a group during Falcon Flex on Fridays in room 258 with math teacher Ayola Vesey and TLCS Innovator Leslie Schlue. “It’s kind of creating that safe place, so no matter what kind of background you have, you’re always welcome at our Cultural Diversity Club because we’re accepting of everyone no matter what his/her belief system is, and where he/she comes from,” Schlue said.

Kaylee Milem, Reporter

The Cultural Diversity Club began two years ago at Davenport North by math teacher Ayola Vesey and world language teacher Monica Jager. North staff was required to join a faculty focus or extracurricular team for the school. Among these teams was the Faculty Diversity Team, which had the goal of figuring out ways to promote diversity in the school. Vesey and Jager were part of the team and decided it would be beneficial to branch it out to the students and create a club. 

“It’s a club for anybody who wants to learn more about different cultures from all around the world,” Vesey said.

Since making the transition from North to West at the start of this school year, Vesey and Teacher Innovator Leslie Schlue, who was also at Davenport North, wanted to create a Cultural Diversity Club for the students but decided to start with the faculty first. 

“I had a lot of faculty that responded, but they could not meet anytime before school, after school, this day, that day, they couldn’t meet,” Vesey said.

Vesey was in the Davenport West library one morning before school waiting to hopefully meet with future faculty members of the club when she approached some students and asked if they would be interested in joining this new club.

“And that is kind of how we started here because I saw a lot of folks. They were there and I was like, well, let’s see if they will be willing to help put up displays in the library,” Vesey said.

The Cultural Diversity Club strays from the traditional teaching methods and focuses more on hands-on learning. 

“The Cultural Diversity Club focuses on one significant heritage or culture a month to help spread information. They also review all of the major cultures and traditions through guest speakers, field trips, and food. It’s fun,” Schlue said.

On Nov. 21, Cheyenne Nation member Larry Lockwood and his wife Pam Lockwood visited Davenport North after school hours to share their story, and provide Cultural Diversity Club students, from North and West, with a first-hand account, followed by tribe songs, and a craft that represented the Cheyenne Nation’s view on the stages of life. 

“It was very eye-opening,” North senior Miciyah Carter said.

“I would [recommend the club to others] because not many know about different cultures and stuff, so it would be interesting for them to learn different things,” sophomore Angel Bueno said.

Both high school clubs gathered again for a field trip on Dec. 6 to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Illinois. The Cultural Diversity Clubs went on this trip to celebrate Jewish heritage and to have a deeper understanding of the Jewish culture and its traditions.

“Mr. [Alan] Ross is the Executive Director of The Jewish Federation of The Quad Cities, and I heard a few years ago that this group sponsored a middle school[in Rock Island], the bus and everything. So I just called and asked them, will they be willing to do it again, for our club, and he said they would love to do it,” Vesey said. 

The Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities donated money to pay for the Cultural Diversity Club’s party bus for the trip. In return, the students that participated on the trip had to write about their experience, as well as take pictures to send to him afterward.

“This experience was very different. Being able to really get a grip on how life was for the Jews,” sophomore Willard Burrell said.  

The Holocaust Museum & Education Center allowed students to be more involved and left them with more questions and an open mind, as well as provided students with a Holocaust survivor that shared his story. 

“The biggest thing on my mind after the whole lesson was how Germany could compare the Jews to a bunch of animals,” junior Izaliyah Ousley said.

The Cultural Diversity Club also works as a team and shows unity between each member.

“I like getting together with other people that are in the club,” Bueno said.

It is not mandatory, but some students will volunteer to come into school early the first school day of the month to decorate the library for the culture that will be celebrated for the rest of that month. 

“I like getting together with the whole club and thinking about new things to do around the library and stuff,” Bueno said.

Some plans for the club include another trip to the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids at the end of February, a live photo display on Martin Luther King by former Falcon Tyler Halterman in the library at West on Friday, Feb. 7, as well as food parties on the last Friday of each month to celebrate each culture and its traditions. The group will also host the La Flama food truck during parent-teacher conferences on Feb. 19 as a fundraiser for the club. 

“I hope to take away a better experience for other cultures and what they are like,” Burrell said.

Students who are interested in joining the Cultural Diversity Club can talk to Vesey in room 258, or Schlue in the library. 

“I think it’s just a really good club for kids to be a part of,” Vesey said. “You’re never too old or too young to learn about another person’s culture.”