Local youth tackle racism, discrimination

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(Courtesy photo) A group of local youth from the First Lutheran Church started 7B Love, a Design for Change project aimed at preventing racism and discrimination. For their efforts, the group will be among 20 local DFC students in six projects who will represent the United States and Sandpoint during the 2019 DFC global summit in Rome in November.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final story in a series detailing the growing efforts of Design for Change Sandpoint as several local youth prepare to represent the United States at the DFC global summit in Rome in November.

By MARY MALONE

Staff writer

SANDPOINT — CDs loaded with racist propaganda were distributed at Sandpoint High School in late 2017, sparking an effort by a group of local youth who began exploring the causes of racism and discrimination.

“Most people hate what they fear,” said Evan Dickinson, a student heading into his freshman year at SHS, and a member of the group of five youth from First Lutheran Church who are tackling racism and discrimination in the community.

Some of the youth from the church, including Evan, had taken on suicide prevention as a Design for Change project during the 2016-2017 school year at Washington Elementary, so they decided to create a new DFC project with their racism and discrimination efforts — the 7B Love Project.

For their work toward preventing racism and discrimination, the 7B Love group has been invited, along with a number of other Sandpoint youth in DFC projects, to represent the United States during the DFC global summit in Rome in November.

“It is cool how this program has put Sandpoint on the map in a way, in this international community,” said Ann Dickinson, the sixth-grade teacher who implemented the DFC program at Washington Elementary. “... It’s almost mind-blowing.”

The 7B Love project started nearly two years ago, however, it was last year when Evan and Breckin Nevarez, who was also in the initial DFC group, met with refugees who live in Boise and were visiting Sandpoint. Using quilts to help tell their stories, the refugees made a big impact on the youth. For Evan’s older sister, Jaden Dickinson, who is also part of the 7B Love group, it was seeing how an exchange student at the high school was treated last year that impacted her.

“She was a real sweetheart,” Jaden said, adding that she was not always treated nicely by others at the high school. “She doesn’t let it ever get to her — she is always smiling. That is really powerful and inspiring for her to stay happy no matter what she goes through.”

The first thing the 7B Love group did was start an Instagram page, @7BLove_Project, to spread messages of love and hope. While they have had a number of ideas over the past couple years, not all of them were feasible. One idea Jaden had, however, was to write a children’s story to give kids a “smaller” picture of what discrimination means. It features a monster who that represents someone who is different — looks different, acts different and believes in something different, Jaden said. Because of this, the monster is teased by two other characters, whose names happen to be Evan and Breckin, though the antagonists eventually realize they are in the wrong.

They are hoping to publish the book soon, as well as have it ready for an upcoming workshop on Aug. 9-11.

Jaden said they knew they wanted to do a workshop since meeting with the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force awhile back, though planning it has not been easy. The group did a “ton” of research, she said, and came up with games and other ideas to illustrate how it is OK to be different.

The kids invited Alex Schmidt, a retired Lutheran minister from Wenatchee, to First Lutheran to host his workshop on bias and racism, titled “Building Bridges of Understanding.” His workshops on Aug. 9-10 will be focused on adults, as well as a workshop for teenagers on Sunday, Aug. 11. The workshop for the younger kids will be held earlier in the day on Sunday from 1-3 p.m., where the 7B Love group, will play games, do an art project and read their story to the youth. The workshop schedule and information can be found at bit.ly/318ZPGs.

Ann Dickinson, who is also Evan and Jaden’s mom, is leaving Washington Elementary this year and moving on to Sandpoint Middle School, where she will be teaching health and social studies. The teachers at Washington will carry on the DFC efforts there, and Dickinson said she will be integrating into her health class, as well as starting a DFC club. The goal, she said, is to eventually have a DFC elective at SMS.

“We (the Design For Change Sandpoint board) are also looking at expanding the program to the high school as well as other church youth groups,” Dickinson said.

The DFC Sandpoint board was recently implemented as the group works toward their nonprofit status.

For now, however, the main goal is to get the approximately 20 local kids representing six different DFC projects to Rome. To do so, Dickinson said they are in need the community’s help as it will cost approximately $2,500 per person. In addition to asking the overall community for help with funding, the kids in each project are asking specific local industries to help them reach their goals. The efforts of the suicide awareness and preventions groups, plastic recycling, food waste reduction, and hunger and poverty have been detailed in the series of stories over the past two weeks, with links to each GoFundMe page in those stories.

The GoFundMe for the 7B Love project can be found online at bit.ly/31dq9iY. Information can also be found on the Design for Change Sandpoint Facebook page.

In addition, the 7B Love group is asking if any law firms or insurance agencies in particular would be willing to help them reach their $12,500 goal. Donations are tax deductible through the nonprofit Walk For HOPE and can be mailed to Design for Change Sandpoint, P.O. Box 1585, Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864. Checks should be made out to Walk For Hope and have “Design for Change 7B Love Project” in the memo.

“We need all the help we can get to get these kids to Rome,” Dickinson said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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