It's OK to be different; in fact, it's embraced at A. Brian Merry Elementary School.
For the term just ended, the school was selected to participate in a pilot diversity program that highlighted various cultures and was integrated into the school's curriculum.
Each month, a culture was featured and pupils listened to guest speakers and participated in activities related to the culture, Principal Beth Schad said.
"We discovered that there were so many ways you could use this in all areas of the school," she said.
It was important for pupils to learn about diversity, said Alissa Greene, a fifth-grader.
"Sometimes people don't accept people who are different from them or like people who are different," the 11-year-old said. "If they realize that while we are different, we are still the same, then I think they will accept people who are different. It will make the world better."
She enjoyed learning about the Hispanic culture the most and has even set a goal for herself because of it, she said.
"I would love to learn to learn the Spanish language," she said.
An event May 20 culminated the yearlong program.
Pupils shared information they learned about each culture; there were cultural performances; and near the end of the program, the school's pupils sung We Are The People of the 21st Century.
It took about 10 years for the diversity program to come to fruition, said the Rev. Larry Fryer, who conceived the idea.
"I had been noticing every year that there was a celebration of Black History Month, which was great. But then I thought, in order for us to live out the true meaning of the dream of Dr. King, I said we need to be inclusive and do something where everybody is celebrated, starting with our children," he said.
The program proved that diversity can be accepted and celebrated, he said.
"We can come together. We can learn from each other. We can grow together and make our world a better place to live," he said.
In January, A. Brian Merry was awarded the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Life and Legacy Award, given to a person or organization that strives for diversity and peace.
The award was authorized by the King Center in Atlanta, Fryer said.
John Deere, the corporate sponsor for the program, provided financial resources and employees from various cultures to serve as guest speakers at the school.
Schad said that she plans to continue the program next school year. Two other schools have expressed interest in doing something similar, she said.