Students share discrimination experiences in panel


Dan Elson

Students participated in a panel about discrimination on Tuesday. Shown left to right are Grace Bourne, Sydney Klabnik, Amber Bartlett and Sebastian Cordero-Toledo.

Dan Elson, Editor-in-Chief

AACC students on Tuesday shared their experiences about discrimination that brought staff members to tears in a “You Are Here” voice panel.

Second-year homeland security student Sebastian Cordero-Toledo, for example, said his classmates in an English for Speakers of Other Languages program “assumed I was lying” about being Puerto Rican.

“So I kind of felt kind of left out,” he said. “I was never allowed to express that I was Puerto Rican. And they said in order for me to be Hispanic I have to be much darker or tan … even though I was in the ESOL program.”

The Office of Student Engagement hosted the panel, which was part of a diversity series. 

Earlier this semester, the series featured a book club, a speaker on ethnography and a ethnic art activity. The panel discussed race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Interim Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Kellie McCants-Price, who attended the voice panel, said the college held this event for students to have an opportunity to hear from a diverse group and to appreciate diversity.

“We just thought it would be nice to hear the student voices,” Director of Student Engagement Amberdawn Cheatham said. “I feel like a lot of the times we do things where we are sharing our stories, but one of the major things from our college is giving the students the opportunity to share their stories.”

 Cheatham said after the meeting the students’ shared experiences were powerful.

“I know some of our team members were in the back wiping their eyes,” Cheatham said. “Because we just don’t know that people are going through this [and] that they have that happening in their homes or in their classrooms.”

Cheatham, whose office also hosted a diversity series last year, said she feels comfortable calling out discrimination. 

“I do know that our administration is working to make a space where if we feel like something has happened, that we can speak up, and the channels are there for us to report,” Cheatham said. “I think we just need to make sure that when we speak out or our students speak out that we close the loop and show that something has happened.”

Cheatham noted, “It’s one of our bigger turnouts since COVID. There were 25 people online and then about 20 of us in the room. So I think it was a pretty good turnout.”

After the meeting, McCants-Price, a psychology professor, said her message to college students is, “Diversity is not something to be afraid of. It really is something that we should value.”

McCants-Price added, “Events like this help us expand and to grow in terms of how we approach the world [and] how we see other people.”

Second-year communications student Grace Bourne called the event “impactful.”

“I love learning about other people,” Bourne said. “And hearing other people’s experiences. I could do that all day.”

Bourne, who is attracted to all genders, said, “I’m happy about being different.” 

Cordero-Toledo noted the college addresses the Hispanic community.

The college “helps a lot of Hispanic students who just got here and are trying to get to college,” Cordero-Toledo said. “So I really liked that.”

Cordero-Toledo noted diversity conversations are important. 

“It clears up the misconceptions that people can have other races,” Cordero-Toledo said.