Penfield Race Summit Encourages Teens to Explore Racism, Cultural Diversity

PENFIELD, N.Y. -- Some local high school students are getting a lesson on race relations. The focus of a student summit in Penfield is to engage teenagers to explore racism and cultural diversity. 

For the second time this year, area high schoolers took part in a student summit on race relations.

Ranita Williams is a senior at Penfield High School who helped organize the summit at Shadow Lake. Ranita says candid conversations are a start when it comes to teaching acceptance of others.

"We're gonna go a little more deeper into it because it's not just racism, sometimes it's the racism we don't think we're doing," said Williams.

Leading the conversation and motivating the students is Jaylen Bledsoe from the Gateway 2 Change program. The organization began after the events of Ferguson, Missouri when a black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer.

Bledsoe called on students to work together to create a community solution. The teens broke off into groups every 20 minutes to share new ideas and individual experiences.

"When you understand you have a prejudice and there's a way that we can bypass it, and learn new perspectives, that's when students are able to grow. I've had a student in St. Louis tell a room of 400 kids, my parents are racist, I want to be the change in my family," said Bledsoe.

More than a dozen school districts are participating in Friday's event, and there are plans to continue this conversation with two summits scheduled for next school year.

"It has to continue, so each summit is going to be another level of understanding, another level of vocabulary and conversation," said Bledsoe.

Willams is hoping her peers will be the voice and the action that leads to positive change in their futures.

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