by Tammy Sakry
Twelve St. Francis High School students went on a mission of exploration Feb. 11.
A $500 grant from Target helped the Open Minds Diversity Club travel to the Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis, and its members set out to explore different cultures by sampling different food and market goods from around the world.
“The students were very open to trying new foods including camel, goat, gyro, tamarind candy, gelato and dishes from Asia, Latin America and Somalia,” said Jaymie Helle, club adviser.
“Experiential learning is one of the most effective ways of teaching. Through these experiences, my hope is that students have a deeper understanding of diversity.”
For sophomore Emily Weber, the day included Greek lamb, enchiladas and a camel burger.
“The enchiladas were different from what I had before. They tasted better,” she said.
The camel burger? “It tasted like chicken,” said Weber, who joined the club last year as a way to make new friends.
“I would try it gain,” she said. “It was a fun experience.”
The trip to the market “was really different. I haven’t done things like that before,” said junior Sarah Haley.
Haley was interested in seeing what other places of the world have, she said.
While she tried to find something new to eat, most of it was just a different variation of what she has already had, Haley said.
“I learned that a lot (of other cultures) have similar things to what we have, but a little different,” Haley said.
Eventually Haley tried an oriental bubble tea or coconut and mango as well as teryaki chicken on a stick and a bite of a camel burger.
The tapioca “bubbles” were squishy with no flavor, she said.
The only thing wrong with the camel burger was that it had mayo and tomato on it, Haley said.
While shopping, Haley discovered Tibetan singing bowls and various dresses from numerous cultures.
“(The bowls) were cool and very interesting,” she said.
Exploring the market proved “that there are a lot of different things and places that are not always the same as you expect them to be,” Haley said.
They are not crazy and outrageous, they are just different, she said.
After touring the market, the students traveled to the Simpson Housing Services Inc, which provides shelter to about 22 women and 44 men every night.
Approximately 13,100 people were homeless in Minnesota in 2009, Christina Giese, volunteer service manager, told the students.
“We received an educational tour of their services and learned about who is impacted in Minnesota by homelessness,” Helle said.
“Students were extremely engaged in learning more about homelessness and what Simpson strives to provide to these people in need. Simpson’s goal is to end the cycle of homelessness by finding low-income housing and helping them become independent.”
“Our group donated supplies for sandwiches and students packed lunches for 130 people while there. One student also brought three bags worth of hotel toiletries to donate, which they openly welcome as donations.”
The day ended at the Mall of America where the students learned what it was like to shop in a wheelchair.
“Each student took a turn and shopped in the wheelchair for 45 minutes,” Helle said.
The students found out how difficult it was to navigate though clothing racks and a crowd as well as the deal with the responses from onlookers, according to Helle.
“They also reported some shop workers were very accommodating and caring, while people held elevators for them and they themselves now have a greater understanding for those that live this day in and day out,” Helle said.
With these activities, “our hope is there will be a greater acceptance among the students at St. Francis High School, a greater discussion among students regarding differences and helping others and a greater number of students volunteering in other community opportunities,” she said.
“Our day of service and exploration was to create experiential learning activities to gain knowledge in tolerance and acceptance by servicing and role-playing in minority roles. This was a successful trip with the willingness and volunteerism of the Open Minds Diversity Club students and the generous donation and support of Target.”
The Open Minds Diversity Club’s mission is to acknowledge and value diverse qualities and promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion in the high school.
Editor’s note: Information for this story came from a press release from Jaymie Helle.
Tammy Sakry is at email@example.com