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STUDENT GOV’T INSIDER: Group raises awareness of disabilities, hunger

Mandi Stirone | Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Student Diversity Board (SDB) has the ambitious purpose of facilitating understanding and cooperation among all Saint Mary’s students while embracing the differences that make each of them unique.

With programming that seeks to appeal to people of all races, disabled or not, pro-immigration or not, and from every background, board president Abby Henchy said she thinks this year’s board has built on the successes of its predecessors.

Henchy’s very young board has been putting in a lot of effort to get the board’s events and messages out to students, she said. Almost half of the board is made up of first-year students – age is nothing but a number, she said – and the freshmen have really been “stepping up.” Henchy said the young leadership has contributed immensely to the board’s successes this year by effectively promoting the group’s events, like the annual SDB bonfire in October.

The bonfire, held indoors due to rain, was the board’s “way of kind of welcoming the student body back to school,” she said. “It hasn’t been outside in two or three years because of rain.”

But the event was a success nonetheless with a turnout of about 100 people, Henchy said.

The SDB also hosted another annual event this year, the Hunger Banquet. While the banquet usually focuses on global poverty and hunger in general, this year organizers “focused on local poverty in the U.S. and then related it to world hunger,” Henchy said.

Last week the board held Disabilities Awareness Week, an multi-day event with various activities to raise awareness about the struggles of people with different disabilities. The board members hosted a deaf culture class, which about 40 people attended, and an eyeglass and sunglass drive that “has actually been a really big success,” Henchy said.

The success of Disabilities Awareness Week prompted her and the board to plan another awareness week, one dedicated to women’s appreciation.

“We figured we’re an all-women’s college,” Henchy said, “and it’s never been done before.”

Details have yet to be worked out, but the Women’s Appreciation Week is set for March 10-14.

The board is simultaneously planning its biggest event, the Diverse Students Leadership Conference, which will be held Feb. 13-15 and will focus on environmental justice, immigration, and women in business, she said.

One major goal for the conference’s organizers this year is that “they want people to realize it’s student-led,” Henchy said. But they also hope to “step it up from last year” and have a bigger turnout, she said.

“[We] want to raise more awareness on Saint Mary’s campus,” she said, “It should be much better than last year. We are hoping for more [students] than last year.”

The rest of the board’s agenda includes two potential service projects for students next semester, she said. Members are organizing a drive and a service opportunity that can get students to work hand-in-hand with people from the local community, Henchy said.