The Blount County community is teaming up to address diversity. It all began when students from Maryville brought a stuffed raccoon to a football game, yelling "get the coon". Community members approached school leaders with concerns about racism, prompting the school to form the Twin City Diversity Council.
Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel joins us with a look into that group's initiative.
Instead of reacting to situations like that, the school district is taking a proactive approach to teach diversity, understanding and acceptance.
Certainly, the raccoon incident sparked the conversation surrounding the diversity council, but the founders say it's not about that. It's about building a better community.
So students in Blount County are taking action, forming a Diversity Council to address problems in the community and promote understanding.
"It's not just about our school. It's about the entire community and the issues that East Tennessee faces," Maryville High School senior Maya Kane said.
Maya Kane and her peers are involved in a senior inquiry class oriented toward service and preparing for college. They hope this group will help prepare students for the real world and all the issues that come with it.
"We need to bring everyone together, not just with race but with different religions and socio-economic groups as well," Kane said.
The group will be student-run with a little help from administrators.
"We're trying to heighten awareness that you need to be a little more sensitive and have your radar out that you could have an action or word or way you conduct yourself that might be offensive or taken in a negative tone," principal Dr. Ken Jarnagin said.
Folks in the community say this should have happened years ago.
"The coon incident and the flags and these incidents could have been handled years ago if the administrations, both at Alcoa and Maryville, had stepped up in the way they could have," Maryville resident Karen Coffin said.
"The problem with diversity is: it keeps bringing out all our differences instead of our common points, and that's a good point. We talk about how we're different instead of how we're the same, and I think that's what we need to be working on," Maryville resident Larry Ellis said.
The diversity council is just getting started, and they want your suggestions to help them hit the ground running. Maryville is currently setting up a page on their website where you can give opinions, comments or suggestions. We'll let you know when the next community meeting is scheduled.