Listen to other voices

Courtesy of Stacey Walter
Bullis Charter School students, from left, Ariya Kaushek, Ava Li, Maia Fernandez (front), Mia Monsalve and Nyla Hayhoe celebrate their differences.

When Mia came to Bullis Charter School as a new student in fourth grade, she received a lot of questions from other students about her hearing aid. After speaking with her parents and teacher, Mia decided to gather a group of kids that also have differences to develop a presentation in which we could share our challenges and create awareness and understanding in our school community.

We quickly volunteered to help. Ariya has a nut allergy and has to sit at a nut-free table at lunch. Nyla is from England, and she’s afraid of people making fun of her British accent. Ava moved to the U.S. from China in second grade and she wears glasses.

We also invited our teacher Ms. Fernandez’s daughter, Maia, to join us. She is only in kindergarten, but her difference is that she has leukemia.

We’ve all had a tough time managing our differences, and it took courage to accept them as well as talk about them. Our shared goal was to let everyone know that we’re all different in at least one way and we shouldn’t feel bad about it.

The five of us agreed that we should speak during a school assembly to spread more understanding. We created a slide show that detailed each of our differences and addressed ways the audience might be different from one another.

At the end of our presentation, we asked everyone in the audience to stand up if they had a difference. We were worried that only a few students would stand. Imagine our surprise when every student in the assembly stood up to acknowledge they were different in some way!

We were really proud that we had taught every single student in the room to be confident with what makes them unique and that we do not stand alone with our differences.

Mia believes she accomplished her goal, but now thinks it was not big enough.

“I think this is a really important topic that I need to go beyond my school,” she said. “There could be better rights, laws and politics that could help people not feel bad about themselves.”

We concluded our presentation with a slide that said, “Keep calm and bring your differences on.”

We hope that our audience learned that worrying just escalates one’s emotions, but if we talk, we are more open to embracing everyone’s differences. We realized that the more awareness we bring, the more confidence we pass on.

Mia Monsalve, Maia Fernandez, Nyla Hayhoe, Ariya Kaushek and Ava Li are Bullis Charter School students.

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