A group of Worthington high school students is teaching third-graders about cultural acceptance through acting.
Seven Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington high school students comprise the Worthington Peace Ambassadors, a new initiative by the Worthington Interfaith Neighbors group. WIN is a multifaith organization that encourages neighbors of different cultural and faith traditions to engage in activities that promote mutual understanding and respect.
The seven students are Dilara Alpay, Noor Chaudhry, Meena Jani, Amanda Keener, Maggie Manrique, Noah Spaulding-Schecter and Kate Stone.
Keener, a 17-year-old senior at Worthington Kilbourne, said WIN's Kathy Moore approached the group of teens with the opportunity last year.
Jan Elliott, an adviser for the group, said she and Moore, who are on the leadership team for WIN, thought of the initiative in an effort to try to bring their message to a younger audience.
"We need to be educating our community from the young children on up," Elliott said.
Spaulding-Schecter, a 17-year-old senior at Worthington Kilbourne, said all the students in the group are diverse and have experienced different issues because of their religion or culture.
"As kids, we would have liked to see a way that other people could have handled that," he said.
The Peace Ambassadors write skits to perform for third-graders in the district's elementary schools. They demonstrate each skit using a "what? so what? and now what?" format that allows the third-graders to interact and propose their own solutions to the problem presented, Moore said.
"It kind of takes issues that seem complicated and makes them simple, but not by reducing that complexity, but just by presenting it in a way that's easier for people to understand," said Jani, a 16-year-old senior at Worthington Kilbourne.
Each example is not given a label intentionally, which allows students to draw their own conclusions, Spaulding-Schecter said.
"By having them draw their own conclusions and suggest their own revisions, I think it allows them to process the nuance themselves," he said.
At the end of each performance, the third-graders are asked about how the lessons affect them and are given a challenge to take action.
"I gave them a challenge to include someone in their playground time," Keener said.
By the end of the school year, the Peace Ambassadors will have performed for every third-grader at all 11 Worthington elementary schools, which totals around 700 students, Moore said.
"I love the way these students process their experience with these third-grade kids," she said.
Elliott said the next steps for the group include creating a follow-up for teachers and partnering with the library to obtain a list of books for the students that discuss the topics after the performance.
Keener said teachers and other faculty members already have started using the performances as a way to teach students about cultural acceptance.
"I think it shows that this idea can be delivered easily," Spaulding-Schecter said.