Posted on November 8, 2004

Girl Scout Teaches Kids About Diversity

Lynh Bui, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Nov. 5

SCOTTSDALE — While Jamie Leibovitz may not be saving the whales or ending world hunger with her Girl Scout Gold Award project, the 17-year-old hopes her service to the community will leave a lasting impression on a group of elementary school students.

The Saguaro High School senior created DiverCity, a workshop that will teach second- through fourth-grade students about diversity and racism. The workshop, which she will teach Saturday at the Mustang Library, is the culminating project for her 12 years in Girl Scouts.

“When the kids leave the workshop, I want them to know what it (racism) is, to know that it’s not right, and to know they can stop it,” Leibovitz said.

While she admits racism may seem like a heady topic for kids who are no more than 11 years old, Leibovitz will read children’s books, sing songs and use arts and crafts projects so students will learn from each other by recognizing their similarities and accepting their differences.

Each workshop will be one hour long, and students will receive a copy of The Skin I’m In, a book Leibovitz will read at DiverCity. Students also will take home a book list so they can learn more about diversity on their own and talk to their parents about what they learned.

Leibovitz’s high school experience with Anytown, a three-day camp in Prescott that focused on diversity and unity, inspired her to create DiverCity.

“I’m thinking if I can get kids at a young age with the stuff that I’ve learned, they can take away something and have that information before they go into high school or middle school,” she said.

The Promoting Unity in the Community Partnership program through the city of Scottsdale awarded Leibovitz a grant to help her pay for her workshop. Scottsdale’s diversity specialist, Velicia McMillan, said the city was thrilled and proud to give Leibovitz the money. McMillan said she was most impressed that DiverCity targeted young people who are “impressionable and developing their image of themselves and others.”

The way she presents it is non-threatening, McMillan said: “It’s not going to focus on why we hate but instead why should we respect each other. It’s about what makes us strong because we’re similar and different.”

When the workshop is finished, Leibovitz will donate the program to Scottsdale’s Human Relations Commission so the city can continue the program after Leibovitz has finished.

Lori Rubin-Williamson, Leibovitz’s Girl Scout co-leader, said Leibovitz is a “textbook example” of how someone can use their interests to leave a lasting impression on the community.

“The Gold Award takes community service to the next level,” Rubin-Williamson said.

Less than 1 percent of all girls who start Girl Scouts end up earning the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.