Sunday, November 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Junior high students embrace diversity training

Diversity1w

Brandon Pacciorini, an eighth-grader at Emerson Junior High School, tells students and panelists gathered for a diversity training on Tuesday about what it's like to have two moms. By his side is Shelly Bailes, a lesbian mom and local gay rights advocate. The training was organized by Emerson teacher Jennifer Terra and brings together junior high students and representatives of various groups that have historically suffered from discrimination, stereotyping, bullying and worse. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | April 25, 2014 |

“How many of you have been scared to talk about your parents?”

That was the question Brandon Pacciorini posed Tuesday to fellow students from Emerson and Da Vinci junior high schools, about three dozen of whom were gathered in the Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church.

Only a few raised their hands.

“I’m always nervous about that,” Pacciorini said.

Because when you tell people you have two moms, he explained, you never know how they’re going to react.

But that doesn’t stop Pacciorini from speaking up. The Emerson eighth-grader is now a regular peer helper and panelist at diversity trainings organized by Emerson teacher Jennifer Terra.

The trainings, which Terra has been organizing for 18 years now, bring together junior high students and representatives of various groups that have historically suffered from discrimination, stereotyping, bullying and worse. The goal is to break down barriers between students and make them more aware of what they say and do, and how their words and actions affect the people around them.

The daylong trainings take place several times throughout the school year and are open to any students who wish to participate.

Pacciorini has become a regular, he said, because it’s important to bring awareness to the LGBT community.

That he is there engaging in this conversation brought two of his fellow panelists, Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, nearly to tears during the final diversity training of the school year on Tuesday.

Way back when in the early stages of their relationship, Bailes and Pontac were told to keep things quiet, or they would surely lose custody of their children.

The couple — who have since become nationally known leaders in the fight for marriage equality — each had two young children and were in the midst of divorces when they met and fell in love decades ago. But their attorneys told them the world simply wasn’t ready for a lesbian couple raising children.

“We couldn’t even tell our own kids,” Bailes said.

Pontac, sitting beside her at the training session, agreed.

“It’s a different world now,” Pontac said. “When our kids were growing up, conversations like this didn’t happen. It just didn’t. It makes me want to cry and hug you all. I’m really glad to be here.”

Bailes, Pontac and Pacciorini were part of a panel discussing issues facing the LGBT community, while other panels over the course of the training focused on physical disabilities and racial issues.

The students themselves talked about stereotypes and bullying, the things they’ve seen and those they’ve experienced first-hand.

The day started with a welcome and the establishment of ground rules intended to make each participant feel comfortable and safe. That, in turn, led to a new kind of openness among these students.

Kailey Smith, a ninth-grader, has been attending diversity trainings since seventh grade and now serves as a facilitator.

Even with 11 diversity trainings under her belt, “you get something new each time,” she said. “Everyone walks away with something.”

In this environment, she said, with ground rules set and a vow of confidentiality in place, things have a way of coming out — experiences unique to people because of their orientation, the color of their skin, their religion, even their size.

Friends she’s known forever begin talking about their experiences, Smith said, “and you learn about them in a new way.”

And Smith, in turn, reveals some of what she goes through as a biracial teen, like being treated with suspicion when she’s in a store, something she and all her family members have experienced.

“We have an opportunity to change that,” Smith said. “And every child should have an opportunity to attend something like this.”

It’s certainly needed, said eighth-grader Natalli Melgoza, another peer helper.

“There are so many stereotypes that kids in junior high and high school seem to have,” she said.

But the students who have taken these trainings to heart and now assist Terra in organizing them see the difference back at school.

“I’ve heard someone say, ‘That’s so gay,’ ” Melgoza said. “And then heard a seventh-grader who attended a training say, ‘You shouldn’t say that.’ ”

“It makes me more aware of what I’m saying,” noted peer helper Eva Stromberg.

And they see the barriers between kids coming down.

Eighth-grader Casey Aikawa described students coming to the training and sitting in their own little groups of friends, the ones they sit with every day, but by the end of the diversity training, “everyone is in one big group. … Kids who might not necessarily click, are together,” he said.

Terra leads a handful of trainings every year, reaching about 150 students annually, and Moti Fox-Libet is one former student who keeps coming back to help. The Davis High graduate, now a second-year college student, is thrilled with how things have changed since he first participated as a junior high student.

“It’s wonderful to watch,” Fox-Libet said. “Participation has increased and the kids have been doing a really great job of making it comfortable for everyone. The kids are really passionate about this and it definitely breaks down those walls, those barriers.”

At Tuesday’s training, Fox-Libet participated on the LGBT panel where he shared his experiences growing up gay in Davis.
Other panelists told their stories as well, from a transgender UC Davis student to a UCD physician who works with transgender patients, as well as Pacciorini, Bailes and Pontac.

At the end of the day, the students themselves took turns saying what one thing they would take back to school with them.
Not judging others, not stereotyping or labeling people, said some. Speaking up when they see something wrong, taking care with what they say, said others.

And as much as the panelists affect the students and their way of thinking, so, too, do the students affect the panelists.

Davis icon Cathy Speck participated in previous diversity trainings this year, usually on the LGBT panel, and says the students definitely become more aware of others’ challenges and experiences.

“They are nothing short of amazing and their openness has brought tears to panelists,” Speck said.

They did on Tuesday as well.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Comments

comments

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Hollywood readies its big guns for the holidays

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Need for local foster parents grows

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

     
    Tactical robot decreases officer risks

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Berkeley, Santa Cruz students protest fee hikes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Couple arrested on drug, firearm possession charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Woman confronts suspicious follower

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Auction-bound student artwork stolen in downtown heist

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

    UCD awarded $100M to lead program to predict, prevent pandemic threats

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Breakfast with Santa tickets are going fast

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Probationers, parolees graduate from Yolo transitional program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Free boot camp, yoga fundraiser this week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Enterprise observes holiday hours

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Bell-ringers still needed this holiday season

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Give blood and get a free movie ticket

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Thanksgiving feast is open to all

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Workshop will answer financial aid questions

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Yolo Food Bank invites locals to run with the flock

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Museum announces holiday schedule

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    At the Pond: Stop, look and listen

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Round up at the registers for Davis schools

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Project Linus seeks donations

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Swing your partner!

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A6

    Fairfield School enjoys a festive feast

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Right at home: gifts you can use and use up

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

    Dec. 10 jeans drive benefits STEAC

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    Davis Community Church history recounted in Sunday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Open your heart

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Bob Hope interview pulled from ‘the vault’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

    .

    Forum

    There’s only one way to fix this

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Students barking up the wrong tree

    By Our View | From Page: A14

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

     
    Heartbroken over treatment of teacher

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

    Google, tell me. Is my son a genius?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

     
    Daryl Cagle cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A15

    Cordial political discourse: Seven years later, the thoughts resonate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

     
    Easing the stress during college application season

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

    How I want to be remembered

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A16

     
    Watch out for holiday weight gain

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16

     
    When the computer stares back

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A16

    .

    Sports

    Turnovers costly as UC Davis loses Classic, 41-30

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie men finish off Furman

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Upset-minded Lions bounce UCD from WWPA tourney

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    New, old-look helmets not enough to lift UCD footballers

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Late shot sinks Aggie women

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Seniors play well in Aggie volleyball loss

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Kings get past depleted T-Wolves

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    With volleyball playoff berth, DHS accomplished its 2014 goal

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

     
    Don’t pass up the parking gift downtown

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13

    Doby Fleeman: Give thanks for our innovation culture

    By Doby Fleeman | From Page: A20

     
    Honey, spreads showcased at open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, November 23, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8