Michigan student-athletes learn a lesson on diversity

Michigan student-athletes learn a lesson on diversity

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Michigan student-athletes learn a lesson on diversity

Brian Lampman teaches Sports Sociology at Saline High School. The school’s population is about 98% white.

Plymouth High School student Alaisia Evans (left) gives examples of why the people in her group are important while reciting their answers to others during the RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) event at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday March 29, 2017.

Plymouth High School student Alaisia Evans (left) gives examples of why the people in her group are important while reciting their answers to others during the RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) event at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday March 29, 2017.

Anika McEvans is athletic director at Southfield A&T High School. That school’s population is about 94% black.

The two joined forces Wednesday morning at the Palace as student-athletes from seven local high schools participated in the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) program, promoting diversity and aimed at helping students learn how to deal with each other socially and athletically.

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Founded in 2015 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, RISE is a nonprofit dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Headquartered in New York, RISE recently opened its first regional office, a Detroit location serving the 12 Midwest states.

RISE has collaborated with the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings on programs impacting local youth. RISE also has partnerships with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

Case Tech High School student Ivory Parrish (center) gives his ideas during the RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) event at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday March 29, 2017.

Case Tech High School student Ivory Parrish (center) gives his ideas during the RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) event at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday March 29, 2017.

“Sports is the ultimate teacher,’’ said Lampman, a former coach. “We are actively trying to teach kids to care about others even if people aren’t in your community or spirit of influence. Developing empathy, compassion, understanding, awareness. …Those are critical things that sport can lend itself to do. Even if the issue is a world away from what your daily life is, it’s getting kids to think outside of what they see every day.’’

Southfield High and Lathrup combined to form A&T this year, and McEvans has pushed for this program even before the two schools merged.

“Honestly, our school is mostly black, so I think it’s most beneficial for a school like West Bloomfield that has a good blend of students,’’ she said. “The kids would benefit from this on a day-to-day basis, then interactions with other schools or other teams. I think it’s most relevant at schools that are blended.”

Garrett Winn is a senior at West Bloomfield and made his second trip to the RISE program.

“It helps me a lot, because even when we travel as a school, we just went to the Breslin (Center), we look around and a lot of schools have primarily one race,’’ he said. “Our school is very, very diverse. If you look into our crowd, you see all colors and races. Everyone is different.

“It’s a good program to have at our school because it brings us all together and helps us understand each other better. We have blacks, whites, Jewish and Chaldean. It helps me become a well-rounded person because I can get ideas from all different cultures and races and perspectives.”

McEvans brought her son Cameron, 16, a sophomore football and basketball player; and daughter Cheyenne, 14, a freshman starter on the varsity basketball team.

Jake Finkbeiner and Abbey Bowen, both 17, of Saline High School at the RISE program

Jake Finkbeiner and Abbey Bowen, both 17, of Saline High School at the RISE program

“Today I expect to learn more about race relations and diversity,” said Cheyenne. To meet new people of different backgrounds, ask a couple of questions, see how life is with other people and see what their school is like.’’

Said Cameron: “I’d just like to learn about the other schools’ backgrounds. What they go through in the RISE program, what their school is like and the backgrounds of the other kids. I’ve never had a problem, but this helps schools become more together.’’

Jake Finkbeiner and Abbey Bowen, both 17, are seniors at Saline High School with a mostly white population. Both played basketball and both believed athletics break down social barriers.

“This is something different that most people at our school don’t do,’’ said Finkbeiner. “This is special that we’re doing this as a school and as a team. There’s not much diversity at Saline. … This reinforces the point that diversity is important in society. This will help us later in life.’’

Abbey agreed: “Sports gives us a place where we can all come together and have similarities.’’

Contact Perry A. Farrell at pafarrell@freepress.com

Cameron and Cheyenne McEvans, students at Southfield A&T High School, participated in the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality

Cameron and Cheyenne McEvans, students at Southfield A&T High School, participated in the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality

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