Westerville is “Crossing Borders” to Celebrate Diversity

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For the first time, the four education organizations that support Westerville City Schools (WCS) are collaborating on an important project called Westerville Crossing Borders.  The goal of Westerville Crossing Borders is to create awareness, understanding, appreciation and connection around the diversity in WCS and the community.

Westerville Crossing Borders was inspired, in large part, by a video from English Language Learners at Westerville Central High School.  These students formed a group called Central Voices and as an initial project produced a documentary sharing their experiences as immigrants and refugees.  The video can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HatsilPEKNE.

“It’s eye opening and highly compelling,” said WCS Superintendent, Dr. John Kellogg.  “These are our students opening up and sharing very personal stories about their experiences. It shows how much work we, as a community, still have to do.  Westerville Crossing Borders is taking on some of that work and I’m very encouraged to see the community jumping on board.”

The focal point of the Westerville Crossing Borders effort this year is the Columbus Crossing Borders Project, which includes a 50-minute documentary and the works of 34 artists responding to stories shared by refugees in our community.  Westerville Crossing Borders is bringing the documentary and art exhibit to be featured at Westerville’s sixth annual Community Culture Day from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 30, 2018, at The Point at Otterbein University.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this,” said Westerville Police Chief, Joe Morbitzer, coordinator of Community Culture Day.  “Our city and, in particular, our schools have a wealth of diversity.  The Columbus Crossing Borders Project shares personal stories and images that inspire us to step outside of our comfort zones and connect with one another.”

“Many people are unaware that Westerville is one of the most diverse school districts in Central Ohio,” said Colleen Moidu, Executive Director for the Westerville Education Foundation. “There are 51 native languages spoken by our students and 57 different countries represented in our classrooms.”

In addition to the event on September 30, the art exhibit will remain at The Point for several days to allow WCS District staff and students to view the exhibit and engage in discussions and projects relating to its themes.  Other events that weekend celebrating diversity include “Hands across Westerville” on Friday, September, 28 during the Uptown Westerville 4th Friday and a Somali Youth Conference on Saturday sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Westerville Police Department.

Members from more than 20 organizations across Westerville are collaborating on this unique project including Westerville Division of Police, Westerville City Council, local non-profits, as well as other religious and professional organizations.

“Watching this project grow and gain momentum with excitement and community support is incredible,” said Liz Washburn, President of Westerville Parent Council.  “It’s truly heartwarming.”

Sponsors for Westerville Crossing Borders and Community Culture Day currently include:  Education First Credit Union, Westerville Education Foundation, Westerville Partners for Education, Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club, Blair IT, Westerville Parent Council, the Gibson Family, the Moidu Family and the Weinhardt Family.

Westerville Crossing Borders is Westerville Education Challenge, Westerville Education Foundation, Westerville Parent Council and Westerville Partners for Education.

Find the event on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/201876084001386/.

Preview the Columbus Crossing Borders Project art exhibit and documentary here:  https://www.columbuscrossingbordersproject.com/

Donate to support Westerville Crossing Borders:  https://www.westervilleeducationfoundation.com/education-funding/project-detail/pid/61/id/125#.W1X_3e0vxD8

Find information regarding the Community Culture Celebration and Hands across Westerville on the Westerville Community Culture Day Facebook page: @westervillecommunitycultureday.

For more information about this event, please email ExecutiveDirector@WestervilleEducationFoundation.com.