Anytown, a diversity leadership camp that I attended at UMSL the summer before my senior year, changed the way that I viewed myself and the society that I grew up in. Throughout high school, I was a part of various diversity conferences; however, Anytown was the most intense and enlightening experience for me. I entered the camp ready to only talk about racial problems, but left the program with a new understanding of how America needs to be reformed in the way that it treats all minorities not just racial minorities. During the week that I spent at the program, I was taught how to be a respectful listener, and learned that breaking the cycle that society imposes to socialize the population requires the cooperation of both the oppressed and the oppressors of the community. This alliance depends on the willingness of the population to communicate and hold discussions with each other, and I hope to be one of the facilitators of these exchanges in the future. The week at Anytown made me more aware of how I viewed others, and reinforced the idea that words can either boost or hurt someone’s sense of self; I was emboldened by the knowledge that I received, and made others conscious of the remarks that they made by making sure that language that they used was politically correct. Since the program, I have planned my final diversity conference; I have also met with leaders, such as Glenn Singleton, to hold conversations regarding race in a private school setting. My passion for social justice grows as I become more exposed to the various methods of change, and I strive to continue my work in diversity as I enter a college setting. The awakening within me that occurred at Anytown has intensified my journey towards understanding not only the world around me, but also that changes that must be made to make society equal and safe for all.
-Sydni Hall, Anytown Delegate 2016, Student from MICDS