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1/19/2017 9:00:00 AM
ALBANY AND TROY
Three schools share diversity lessons
A PROJECT on diversity at Sacred Heart School in Troy.
A PROJECT on diversity at Sacred Heart School in Troy.
Sacred Heart students smile after discovering eggs are eggs.
Sacred Heart students smile after discovering eggs are eggs.
BY KATHLEEN LAMANNA
STAFF WRITER

Diversity, equality and social are buzzwords in Catholic schools around the Albany Diocese. Three of them shared their experiences with teaching and living diversity in the school community.

BISHOP MAGINN, ALBANY
Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, which has opened its doors to many refugees from Myanmar (also known as Burma), thrives on the differences among its students.

Michael Tolan, Maginn's director of development and advancement, noted that "all of our kids take pieces from each other's cultures. They can certainly understand and empathize with each other's backgrounds."

The school makes a point of celebrating not only American secular holidays and Catholic holidays, but also the holidays of the different cultures from which the student body is drawn. Coming up, for example, are celebrations for the New Years of various cultures, including the Korean New Year on Feb. 8.

For Myles Reid, a senior at Maginn, having classmates of diverse backgrounds add to his school experience -- and friendships.

"I learned to appreciate and admire the courage that some of the students" have, he said, noting that it's fun to learn about the cultures of his friends.

Christine James agrees. As a senior, she moved to the Albany Diocese from Pakistan.

"The school has been so accepting," she told The Evangelist. "They are so friendly and accepting."

As she shares at school about her own background, Christine is also learning about different cultures.

Saw Shi Shi, a Maginn senior from Myanmar, said that he always felt welcome at his high school. His fellow students and the faculty were willing to help him bridge the language and cultural barriers when he first arrived, he recalled: "The first day I came here, I did not know a lot, but they are so friendly."

SACRED HEART, TROY
At Sacred Heart School in Troy, pre-kindergartners have been learning that it's what's inside that counts. Preschool teacher Elizabeth Ciccone has prepared the students for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a lesson at their age level.

After making a list of similarities and differences between white and brown eggs, the class of four- and five-year-olds cracked open the eggs to see that, while the shells were different colors, the insides looked exactly the same.

Mrs. Ciccone said that, although she teaches the lesson every year, she feels it's particularly apt in this year's tense political climate. However, she said, her students don't seem to see differences in their friends.

"As we grow, people do develop feelings of being different," Mrs. Ciccone noted. She makes sure that she teaches her students it's their job to make sure everyone always feels welcome.

BLESSED SACRAMENT, ALBANY
At Blessed Sacrament School in Albany, Michele DiPiazza's kindergarten class celebrated diversity by having a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, using an egg metaphor similar to Sacred Heart's.

"The students learned our skin color does not matter," said Ms. DiPiazza in an email to The Evangelist. "God made us all different and unique. What a boring world it would be [if] we all looked alike!"

Mrs. Ciccone noted that her students show her in little ways that they are picking up on her message of equality, saying that they often come back to school in the morning saying that they talked to their parents about "Luther Martin King."

The message that she's spreading goes beyond skin color or race, she said.

"It relates back to bullying. If it stops one act of bullying in any way, it's worth it."





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