Queen urges Taft kids to get along

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Wearing a brown shirt and beige pants, Queen Rania – an advocate of education, opportunities for youths and women’s empowerment – seemed to understand the students and where they’re coming from, even encouraging them to add a Middle Eastern person to their list of MySpace and Facebook friends. “It’s about reaching out,” she said. Her visit was arranged by the county Human Relations Commission, which in 2005 began working with the school, where a brawl among students prompted a campus lockdown. The school is among the most diverse in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In light of the violent incident, teachers began working with students to implement programs to improve student relations and conflict resolution. The queen, and mother of four young children, heard from some of those students, who talked about bridging the cultural divide. WOODLAND HILLS – The world’s youngest queen came to Taft High School on Wednesday, preaching a message of peace and understanding – a message the students knew all too well. For the past two years, they have established campus groups to bridge the gap between black and white, Muslim and Jewish, and gay and straight as a part of a program through the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. So when Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan spoke to about 500 of the school’s 3,000 students Wednesday, she had a captivated audience. “It’s not just about accepting diversity,” said the 37-year-old queen. “It’s about understanding the value of diversity. We have to make that effort to challenge assumptions, to try to get to know that other person even if they look different than us.” One by one, they approached the podium, giving the queen examples of how they’ve eradicated prejudice and promoted understanding on campus. For example, Abraham Hernandez and Sergio Astorga used to be enemies, just because one lived in the 818 area code and the other lived in the 213. Astorga is now the co-president of the Heart/Blue Ribbon Committee, a program that addresses racial and ethnic issues. “Once rivals and now friends, Heart has put into perspective what is important in this world, and has helped tear down much of the hatred I once had towards him and his group,” Astorga said. Then there’s Shawna Varagen, an openly gay female student who walks hand in hand with her partner on campus. “We are all fighting the same battle, whether black, brown, Jewish, Muslim, gay or straight,” she said. “Taft has become a place where students feel safe and free to express themselves.” Taft Principal Sharon Thomas said the programs have helped students learn to get along. “They’ve made them more tolerant, less angry toward groups that are different to them,” she said. “I think what they heard loud and clear from the queen was to continue that work, (to) try to make a friend who is very different.” At the end of the queen’s appearance, she said Taft was the first high school she had ever visited in California. Then she added, to rousing applause, “I think I made the right choice.” [email protected] (818) 713-3699160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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