Archive for Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Kindergartners urged to embrace differences

March 8, 2006

If Tonganoxie kindergarten students had hollered a little louder, some windows might have shattered last Wednesday at the elementary school.

But the ear-splitting loud voices were in response to Olivier and Latrese (Marshall) Kabuya, who spoke to kindergartners in honor of Black History Month, which was in February.

"I can make a difference," said Olivier, who was born in Africa. "You can make a difference. Who can make a difference?"

The students quickly learned this was a participation assembly.

"We can make a difference!" they shouted.

Olivier encouraged the children to "embrace your differences," rather than be divided by them.

"Because difference is what?" he asked the children.

On cue, the students enthusiastically shouted, "Difference is good!"

The Marshalls have four daughters. Britney is in sixth grade at Tonganoxie Elementary. And Morgan is in Debbie Wedel's kindergarten class. Leah is 2 years old, and Naomi is 5 months.

Though the family recently moved to Tonganoxie, Latrese already was familiar with the school system.

In fact she, too, had Mrs. Wedel as a kindergarten teacher.

Latrese, who graduated from Tonganoxie High School in 1990, is the daughter of Booker T. and Ella Marshall, Tonganoxie.

Olivier, who speaks five languages, lived in Africa during his early childhood and later in Europe.

Life was a change for him in Europe, he said. For instance, he said he was different from his classmates.

"They didn't look like me, they didn't talk like me and they sure didn't act like me," Olivier said. "Difference is good. We can learn from one another, listen to one another, we can impact the whole world -- we can make a difference."

The children raised their hands to comment on how they could make friends with people, even when they have obvious differences.

Cami Timm said, "We can be kind and nice."

Emma Campbell said, "If you don't know anybody you can say, 'What is your name.'"

And Sammy Sigourney said, "If you don't know them, you can go over and say, 'Do you want to be my friend?'"

Olivier praised the children for their insight and added, "This world is getting to be smaller and smaller."

When Olivier asked for a show of hands from children who wanted the world to be a better place, almost all the hands in the room went up.

Olivier talked about war, telling the children that when he left Africa, his country was experiencing war.

"People really didn't want to embrace their differences," Olivier said. "Instead of talking, they started fighting. Is that a good thing?"

Again the children answered in unison, "Noooooo."

"We have a responsibility to make this world a better place," Olivier said. "Can you do it?" The children answered in a resounding, "Yes!"

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