GREAT FALLS — The Bison and Rustlers are known for crosstown clashes. But the two schools can agree on two important values - diversity and inclusion. And as Black History Month continues, a pair of diversity clubs at the schools are coming together and doing their part to promote those ideals.
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“With both clubs, we really try to promote diversity and inclusion and try to get everyone involved and make sure everyone feels seen and heard,” said C.M. Russell High School senior Shy Rae Yellow Owl. The club’s advisor is Principal Jamie McGraw.
The Great Falls High group goes by “I M Bison.” Their advisor is Luis Carranza.
“We created this group mainly because there is a lot of minorities here in Great Falls that we wanted to reach out and let them have their voices heard and so we wanted to be very inclusive, but not only just for minorities and culture, but for all different types of backgrounds that may get judged,” said Great Falls High School senior Mariyah Hicks.
On February 21st from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Great Falls High School Auditorium the clubs will present an event called Live the Dream featuring speakers including students and Bishop Marcus Collins of Alexander Temple Church of God in Christ. There will also be food, music and a pop-up museum. While its designed to celebrate Black History month, people of all backgrounds are welcome.
“When you tie your culture to somebody else's culture or you connect with them in that way, it helps connect everyone as a community,” said Great Falls High School junior Tahlia Murillo. “So when you connect with that person and you find the similarities in both your cultures, it allows you to have a deeper connection. So, if we could do that with the whole community, it would be really great to get everyone here.”
“Anyone who comes can take something away from it,” said Yellow Owl who plans on attending Dartmouth College and majoring in neuroscience after graduation. “Whether it's a new perspective from just learning about other people, learning more about your community and or just being able to like feel seen and be able to see yourself in some of our speakers' stories.”
“At the end of the day, we are all human. We have different backgrounds, we have different stories, different cultural backgrounds and everything like that,” said Hicks. “And so, it gives a voice for those people who feel left out, who feel like they're not being heard. And so it also gives understanding for those people who don't have cultural backgrounds, who don't go through the struggle, who don't go through certain things.”
Hicks, who plans on attending the University of Washington and majoring in communications, says she and her family have felt the sting of racism and discrimination. Events like “Live the Dream” and clubs like “We R Rustlers” and “I M Bison” go a long way in changing perceptions.
“I believe this event is so important because it’s showing that we can go through this struggle, but we will take that and turn it into something great,” said Hicks.