In March 2020, Rogers Adventist School was visited by a team of accreditors from North Pacific Union. As all schools do when going through accreditation, the RAS school board, administration and staff set lofty goals in their Continuous School Improvement Plans. One of the goals was to identify ways to address the diverse cultures and backgrounds of individual learners and promote acceptance and inclusion. A lofty goal, to be sure, but staff were excited about the challenge.
And then just a few days after that accreditation visit, RAS shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, like every other school in Upper Columbia Conference.
However, the goals weren’t forgotten. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and to the present, RAS has continued to pursue these goals of acceptance, inclusion and diversity in their student body.
Native American Heritage Month is a favorite at RAS. A team of educators and leaders from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation comes each November to share a special presentation where RAS students, along with their family groups, rotate through four different stations: dancing and drumming, first foods, storytelling/language and beadwork/regalia. This is a highlight for students and teachers alike as we learn from our local tribes about their cultures and traditions.
Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to honor students in our school who speak two languages! Games like lotería; piedra, papel, tijera (rock, paper, scissors); pato, pato, ganso (duck, duck, goose) and more are always fun to play together. Teachers focus different aspects of their curriculum to honor this month as well.
Art is a wonderful way to learn about different cultures. During the 2022 celebration, students in third and fourth grade learned about and created alebrije (carved and painted animal figurines) and Zapotec weavings with bright colors and geometric designs.
Black History Month has brought us excellent speakers in the past like Gwendolyn Trice, who spoke about her father who worked in a logging town called Maxville which used to be close to Wallowa, Oregon. Her stories of segregation and cross-cultural friendships were inspiring. Hearing from Robert Bartlett who shared the history of the Triple Nickles, a secret World War II smoke-jumping mission based in Oregon staffed by black soldiers, was equally as inspiring.
In celebration of Asian American Heritage Month in 2022, we turned the time over to our Asian American and Pacific Islander parents and students. They made us Asian delicacies like steamed rice buns, shared the scripture and prayer for our chapel in Japanese and Korean and taught us how to make an origami Samurai hat.
We want our Hispanic, Asian, Black and Native American students to feel accepted, appreciated and valued. Teachers and administrators at RAS heard over and over from these households how much they appreciated the acknowledgment of their cultures and histories. We are all stronger when we work together and when we understand each other’s backgrounds.