Dispelling assumptions and stereotypes

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Grand Blanc Township (WJRT) (12/14/17) What if we could dispel stereotypes and misunderstandings simply by talking with other people? That was the idea behind a project at a Mid-Michigan school.

They call it the Human Library Project.Rather than read a biography, students sat down with people who have unusual professions or whose backgrounds are ones the kids aren't familiar with. Eighth graders at Grand Blanc West Middle School accepted the challenge.

Before the students talked with the guests, they had to write down what they thought a trapeze artist or a disabled person or any of their other guests would be like. Then they spent time with them, asking questions.

"I'm just trying to have people understand that just because I look different or my religion is different than yours doesn't necessarily mean that we can't get along and we can't be one," said Jenna Zineddin, one of the guests.

Daniel Kennedy played basketball in college but had to get a more routine job when his career in athletics came to an end.

"It's been lots of interaction. Lots of interest. Lots of engagement. They've been asking questions," said Daniel Kennedy of Rochester Hills.

Dennis Williams-Mitchell is now a motivational speaker.

"As I was talking to the students I said it was possible but you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it. Because if you don't believe in yourself, no one will," said Dennis Williams-Mitchell of Flint.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to expand their horizons.

"I think they chose interesting people for us and it's just cool," said Maura Puro, an 8th grader.

"When you hear their stories it's very interesting and fascinating to know their true stories," said Nazim Ali, an 8th grader.

"The purpose of the human library was to dispel some myths and assumptions and predictions that we all make about each other," said Mary Kennedy-Jacob, an 8th grade language arts teacher.

22 guests spent time with the students. This is the first time the Human Library Project was tried at Grand Blanc West Middle School.

"I would rate it an eleven. I think the guests were amazing. Our students really stepped up," said Kendra Hopewell, an 8th grade language arts teacher.

As you may have guessed, the students will have to write a paper about what they learned.

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