Finding new ways for people to learn things is a challenge no matter where you are on life's path. Trying to teach older people something new poses very distinct challenges as their minds are more set in their thought patterns and they go about their business. Younger people while being more readily adaptable to learning because most of the time, that's what they do day in and day out, but the daily challenges too can cause some challenges. Book learning, repetitive learning, hands on training, life as a whole, they all present ways to learn...but when we can peel back a layer a little further and being experience into the process as well as personal stories of growth and challenge, attention is grabbed pretty quickly.
This is the goal of the Unity Day at North Muskegon Middle and High School. Well, Unity Day has become Unity Week where the whole school spends some time in an experience based learning environment centered on "Being Who You Are". Author Brene Brown, in her book "Atlas of the Heart," says that "True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are.” This means that people from all walks of life contribute something special and make up the fiber of our community. Our differences are our strengths and to have an understanding of them as well as an appreciation for where others skills lie is paramount.
How does North Muskegon introduce the idea of differences? Well, it's pretty simple. Find people willing to come in and share their journey and if by chance they can share that story along with some savory food and some flare from their background, all the better. Unity Day this year will be "headlined" by Chef LaKisha Harris of Soul Filled Catering and Private Chef Services. You may know LaKisha from the Muskegon Channel too! Not only will she be sharing her story of being an entrepreneur and chef, but the path to getting there and how the rich heritage of soul food cooking has been passed down through the generations in her family. There couldn't be a better representative to go in and speak to young people.
As she completes the lessons inside, the focus turns to Walker Park out in front of the school for the last 2 hours of the day. From 12:50-2:45 the school opens up to the entire community outside to enjoy the food samples. There will be vendors representing all different kinds of tastes and ethnicities. There will be a stage with an open mic for students to share spoken word and poetry presentations. Music might very well break out. It's a chance to mix and mingle in a great community setting and learn a little more while seeing some amazing re-imagined learning going on in a little more relaxed atmosphere.
I met up with Principal Ken Byard and Teachers Sarah Knuth and Colleen Christophersen at the North Muskegon HS Library. They are part of the committee that put on Unity Day. Take a listen as these amazing educators explain the beginnings of this event and where it is now and as they share some insight about the importance of this kind of educational opportunity with young people.
The idea you heard earlier - I hope it strikes a chord. "True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are.” Think back to the early part of your young adult life when you had not quite established your identity and picked the path you wanted to walk. It's a difficult and confusing time. Giving young people room to explore, feel, react and try things that they may not otherwise be exposed to is an amazing way to ignite their passions. The idea of mixing some different stories, roads and even some flavors is a way for young people to begin to see that there's a whole great big world out there and a little more unity can't hurt any of us! Make sure you stop by Walker Park at the end of the month, not only to see education in action but to maybe open your world up a little too! It's a great day for all of us! You can see Unity Day 2021 from the North Muskegon YouTube page below.