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Scholastic freshmen discuss diversity, respect in summer program

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Scholastic freshmen discuss diversity, respect in summer program

By STEVEN VIERA
Staff Writer

RED BANK—While many of their soon-to-be classmates may have been enjoying their time off, over 100 students spent July diving right in to the high school experience.

As part of Red Bank Regional High School’s Summer Slam program, which ran from July 5 to July 28, incoming freshmen discussed the importance of diversity and respecting others as a way of preparing for high school.

Summer Slam is a voluntary program designed to help students transition into a high school environment with a curriculum that emphasizes English, math, science, social studies, critical thinking and reading comprehension. The SOURCE, Red Bank Regional’s school-based youth services program, operates Summer Slam and also offers counseling, academic support, preventative healthcare and other services.

“Students participate in team building activities to get to know one another as they come together from many districts,” SOURCE Director Suzanne Keller said. “This also offers students the opportunity to meet their freshman academy teachers and to get to know the layout of the school.”

Enrollment for this year’s Summer Slam was over 100 students—more than one-third of the incoming freshman class.

Beyond sharpening their academic skills, students went on a trip Camp Zehnder in Wall for a field day activities and sports. Another highlight of Summer Slam were visits from Gilda Rogers, an author and activist, who led students through a series of discussions promoting diversity.

On her first visit, Rogers, a former SOURCE director, talked about her efforts to save the home of T. Thomas Fortune, a former slave who rose to prominence as a journalist and lived in Red Bank during the early 20th century. On July 21, Red Bank’s Zoning Board approved a proposal to rebuild the house as a cultural center.

“The T. Thomas Fortune House is located right in the very community in which many of our students live,” Keller said. “They know of the house but are not aware of the rich history that exists and the promise for a new cultural center.”

On her second visit, Rogers was accompanied by Sid Bernstein, with whom she co-founded Citizens for a Diverse and Open Society. Rogers and Bernstein discussed the importance of diversity, how to combat racism and encouraged students to establish “Students for a Diverse and Open Community” in the high school.

“We hope this is just the beginning of the conversations about racism that will lead to further discussion among their peers,” Keller said. “We at the high school promote acceptance, tolerance, respect and kindness for all. It starts with a few people and branches out to many.”