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Students shatter stereotypes

A group of high school seniors from River Falls, Hudson and Somerset gathered April 12 to learn more about each other as people and continue a tradition of organizing the event. <i>Submitted photo</i>

River Falls high school seniors in a Life Skills class started in 2011 to Flip It Forward, an exercise in which they collaborate with students from other schools to break down barriers and highlight the students' similarities.

The students invite other young people from around the Big Rivers Conference and have worked with peers from Hudson each year. The young people plan, organize and conduct the Flip activities.

River Falls teacher Deb Ottman said a total of 75 students gathered April 12 for another event, with teams from Hudson and River Falls training students from Somerset.

The Flip It Forward events entail kids probing the reasons "why we judge and stereotype" and ultimately learning that they all share many more similarities than differences.

Ottman said the students also worked last year with 8th graders, the incoming freshman of 2012-2013.

Students who commented about the exercises the first year said they learned how many people have it "worse than you do" and face greater challenges than anyone realizes.

Another student said it was good to get away from the habit of "hating on and making fun" of the young people on rival sports teams.

Other students, for example, learned how many of them are affected by divorce, about aspects of different cultures and about how to express their "real" self to others.

One student summarized the objective of the exercise this way: "(Flip It Forward) makes you realize that you're not all that different than the person sitting next to you."