On June 14, 1997, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton announced One America in the 21st Century: the President's Initiative on Race, established with executive Order 13050, was a critical element in President Clinton's effort to prepare his country to embrace diversity. The main thrust of the effort was convening and encouraging community dialogue throughout the country designed to heal racial and ethnic divisions wherever they exist.
President Clinton envisioned an America based on opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a unified community of all Americans. He was convinced that, even as America rapidly was becoming the world's first truly multi-racial democracy. Race relations remained an issue that too often divided the nation and kept the American dream from being real for everyone who worked for it.
The S.T.A.R. Project: A Promising Practice For the Nation
Students Talk About Race (STAR) is a signature project of the Multicultural Center (MCC) at California State University, Long Beach. Since its inception in November, 1992, with just 15 CSULB students, STAR has trained, at times, over 400 students per semester drawn from CSULB as well as other Los Angeles area campuses (including UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, and Loyola). STAR has recruited over 2,500 college volunteers, training them to become facilitators in cross-cultural communication and placing them into 76 middle school and high schools (serving some 18,000 students) and continues to serve in this capacity. The eight week STAR experience has proven itself to be a compassionate and candid forum, addressing difficult issues of diversity with vulnerability and humor.
In February of 1998, the STAR program received a rare honor - being officially designated as a "Promising Practice for the Nation" by President Bill Clinton's Commission on Race. The following month the White House issued a press release stating that the STAR project had been selected as one of only three programs in Los Angeles to be visited by Advisory Board members of President Clinton's "Initiative on Race" Commission. On March 26, 1998, the STAR training was attended by:
At the conclusion of the STAR training, Governor Winter stated emphatically "STAR should be in every classroom in America." Judith Winston added, "I would like STAR training to be brought to the White House staff."
Just prior to receiving such national attention, the STAR project was also featured on a panel as part of the first CSU Statewide Conference on Intercultural Studies, March 6, 1998. This occasion afforded the MCC Director an opportunity to share the CSULB philosophy of diversity and the STAR format of training with many campuses in the California State University system, (the CSU being the largest public university system in the country.)
Other notable endorsements of the STAR project include:
In 1996, STAR won the University of Southern California's prestigious "Building Better Communities" award. But, perhaps, a Los Angeles Times headline said it best when it called the STAR Program "A Safe Place to Face Racism." The STAR Project was just beginning when journalist Dianne Klein followed two CSULB graduate students, Steve Mortenson and Analisa Ridenour, into Jefferson Middle School in Central Long Beach. The schools ethnic breakdown at the time was 30% Latino, 27% black, 25% white, and 17% Asian. Klein's appreciation of the STAR project-in-action appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sunday edition, March 28, 1993. STAR's message of creating "a safe place" for diversity dialogue still holds true today.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation funded an independent, exhaustive evaluation of the STAR program in the 1997-1998 school year. The results showed that STAR met all five criteria that scholars have identified as constituting a successful prejudice reduction intervention. The five criteria are as follows: (1) participants are given equal status within the situation;(2) the contact is individualized, so participants get to know one another;(3) cooperation across groups is fostered;(4) positive interaction is promoted that weakens negative images or stereotypes and strengthens positive images;(5) support from authorities (teachers and facilitators) strengthens expectations that the group will interact positively.
The STAR project received a generous donation of $100,000 from Producer/Director Norman Lear's Foundation.
"Wow, what an empowering, enlightening and spiritual experience! It's amazing to realize I had the ability to influence the students in such a positive way." - Brandon Tull, CSU Long Beach.
"The experience gave me a chance to discover the potential I have to be a teacher. I really found myself becoming attached to my kids." - Cat Padrosa, CSU Dominguez Hills
"This experience helped dispel my pessimism. The students seemed genuinely concerned about these issues. The teacher was also very supportive and enthusiastic." - Veronika Geronimo, Pepperdine
"I learned an incredible amount about myself and about society. It was the best feeling when a quiet student spoke out and told their story. I may have gotten more out of this experience than they did. I recommend STAR to all my friends." - Joanna Airey, Loyola Marymount University
"It's been a wonderful growing and learning experience: very mind-opening and fulfilling. A wonderful training by Dr. Sauceda." - Rita Marwah, USC
"The kids really looked forward to us coming. On a personal note; I found that I really enjoyed working with this age group." - Erika Maya, UCLA
"The students had a real need and desire to speak on the issues." - Craig Hopkins, CSU Northridge
"This semester was great! The bound curriculum was nice and there was a good mix of kids to make discussions interesting." - Genevieve Santillanes, Occidental College
"Seeing the diversity of LAUSD was eye-opening. I felt I was doing something positive for peace and justice." - Jeffra Becknell, UCLA
"I think we helped relieve tension among the students and the teachers by making them all really listen to each other." - Alex Diaz, CSU Fullerton
e ducate participants about racial and ethnic intolerance and tolerance, and to encourage understanding, acceptance and celebration of people who are different from ourselves;
h elp participants acknowledge the equal human worth of distinct groups of people;
a ssist participants in recognizing the personal and social signs of racism, discrimination, prejudice, bigotry, stereotyping, and scapegoating, to understand these attitudes and behaviors and risks posed by them;
c ontribute to community-mindedness and volunteerism, and to create a bridge between neighborhoods and local colleges and universities;
e xplore strategies for the creation of a climate of civility in our schools;
p ersuade participants that there are no race of people, per se, but rather one race, the human race.