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Canyon High receives district's diversity award

• Recognition for promoting harmony among social groups

Posted: June 24, 2008 1:42 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.

In recognition of its "Breaking Down the Walls" workshops, Camp Darfur reenactment event and Yes I Can program - among other activities that promote harmony among social groups - Canyon High School has received the Hart district's Valuing Diversity Award for the 2007-08 school year.

"Canyon High School has made steady and significant contributions to diversity awareness and appreciation," said Greg Lee, diversity coordinator for the William S. Hart Union High School District. "The continued commitment of the administration, staff and students becomes apparent when we consider the activities that the Cowboys hosted this year."

The annual award is given to the school with the most active program aimed at appreciating the school's diverse student body, and was presented at a recent meeting of the Hart district's Administrative Council, which includes district office administrators as well as principals from across the district. Lee made the presentation to Canyon Principal Bob Messina, citing several examples of Canyon High's efforts to promote the school's diversity.

The STAND school assembly program, which took place this year at Golden Valley and Valencia high schools, and which is scheduled for Hart and Saugus next fall, had its district premier at Canyon last year. The program was brought to the district's attention by a Canyon counselor.

This year, the entire Canyon student body participated in the "Breaking Down the Walls" assembly, following it up with a two-day workshop that empowered hundreds of students to take responsibility for bridging the gaps that exist between social groups.

"The staff invested significant amounts of class time to support this campus wide effort at improving student relations," Lee said. "The administration's logistical and financial support was crucial in making the event a tremendous success."

The Canyon Student Watch Group, a chapter of International Human Rights Watch, constructed a re-creation of an African refugee camp, then gave students and staff informational tours that raised awareness of historic and present-day genocide around the world during a Camp Darfur program.

The Canyon Safe School Ambassadors program, known as the Canyon Action Team, worked anonymously, yet diligently throughout the year to promote inter-group harmony and to encourage students to treat each other with respect.

Student trainers from the Canyon Operation Us program visit local elementary schools to present an assembly on combating prejudice and stereotyping. The idea is to create an atmosphere of respect and appreciation for diversity in students from Canyon's feeder schools even before they reach the critical junior high school level.

The Canyon Yes I Can program greatly facilitated a social connectedness between students in special education and mainstream students who might otherwise have had little or no interaction.

"The effort, energy and enthusiasm that the Canyon Cowboys are known for have been dutifully applied to attaining the Hart district's diversity awareness and appreciation goals," Lee concluded. "They are to be commended."


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