Arrowhead Juvenile Center among speakers at UMD diversity summit

By KBJR News 1

February 25, 2014 Updated Feb 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM CDT

Duluth, Minn. (NNCNOW.com) -- Diversity and multiculturalism were the topics of discussion at the University of Minnesota's Diversity Summit on Tuesday.

The summit was hosted by UMD's Diversity Commission.

The commission aims to create a learning community in which participants engage in a challenging educational experience as respectful community members.

Professionals from different community organizations gave presentations and facilitated workshops to help educate people about cultural issues facing the community.

Community coaches from the Arrowhead Juvenile Detention Center (AJC) were among the speakers at the summit. They talked about their work in helping kids at the center find their identity.

"We have to make sure that our kids know their identity, if they don't know that, then they don't know where they are going," said Stephan Witherspoon, an African American community coach at AJC.

One way the Center is helping kids connect with their culture is through their Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.

"This initiative was initially made for the disproportional number of kids of color in our juvenile halls, but we work with everyone because all of our kids are important and we want everyone to succeed," said Witherspoon.

Part of the initiative is reminding youth of their court dates. Since coaches started the reminders, they noticed a 50 percent reduction in detention of lower risk youth.

"One of the main messages I was giving is that I have never met a bad kid in the Arrowhead Juvenile center," said Babette Sandman, Native American community coach. "They may have made some bad choices, but they are basically good kids."

Part of making sure kids stay on track to be productive and active in the community is ensuring they have access to education.

Dr. Angela Davis from the University of California, Santa Cruz, was the key note speaker at the summit.

She talked about her research in respect to education and the increased number of prisons that have been built in this country.

"We are working together as a community to make sure our children are getting an education and are in the schools," said Susana Pelayo-Woodward, Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity at UMD.

Student groups and organizations also held the first Diversity Fair in conjunction with the summit. The fair allowed students and the community to learn more about student organizations in the multicultural center.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.