Youth Undergoes Diversity Training with Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – Today’s youth are faced with many obstacles with regards to bullying and violence. Headlines were dominated in 2010 by the effects of bullying in schools and on social media sites.

With these issues at the forefront, the Celtics and Chipotle teamed up for a basketball education summit for their Jr. Celtics program. The one-day clinic Sunday afternoon at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Mass., brought 35 kids from different neighborhoods and towns together for diversity training.

Dana Barros speaks to the group of youngsters at the Celtics and Chipotle's diversity training session.
Ashley Earle/Boston Celtics

The educational agenda consisted of three activities: Diversity Island, Huskies vs. Hoyas and Conflict Escalator.

Diversity Island, led by Community Relations Manager Dave Hoffman, focused on assumptions based on appearance.

After drawing an image of an island, Hoffman asked the youth to give some examples of what makes people different.

One kid said, “A person’s favorite sport makes them different.”

“That’s a great one,” remarked Hoffman. “Now, would you know a person’s favorite sport by their appearance or is this something that would be under the surface where you would have to take time to get to know them?”

Unanimously, the students voted in favor of getting to know the individual before being able to determine their favorite sport. As a result, Hoffman wrote that difference under the water in his island image.

Other differences that were considered ‘under the water’ were religious affiliations and political views. Differences that were written ‘above the water’ were gender and race.

“What have you learned by looking at this drawing and seeing that more differences are under the water?” asked Hoffman.

“This teaches you not to assume things about a person based on their physical appearance or the type of clothes they are wearing,” responded one youth. “Instead you should take the time to get to know them because there is a lot more to a person than their physical appearance.”

Following the Diversity Island activity, the group transitioned to Huskies vs. Hoyas, an activity that worked to build one’s appreciation for differences.

Half of the youth were Huskies which meant they were friendly, outgoing and informal. Huskies enjoy speaking to a lot of people, shaking hands and standing close.

The other half of the youth were Hoyas, who had the exact opposite characteristics. Hoyas don’t start conversations with strangers, stand far away from the person they are having a conversation with, dislike physical touching and are formal.

After the two groups learned their characteristics, it was time to interact! Suffice it to say, there was a lot of miscommunication and confusion.

As the group came together to discuss how the interaction went, it was interesting to hear their responses.

One youth from the Huskies team felt that the Hoyas were rude. On the other side of it, a member of the Hoya team felt the Huskies were overly friendly.

“Those are two great points,” said Community Relations Director Matt Meyersohn. “Did you notice how all of our comments were about the other group and how they were different as opposed to talking about how we may be perceived? In reality, nothing was negative about either group. They just perceive things differently. One of the hardest things about being a leader is not treating everyone the same but rather understanding people’s differences and acting accordingly.”

The final activity, Conflict Escalator, focused on the choices people make. Hoffman drew an escalator for the youth to look at and gave them some background information.

Said Hoffman, “Many of you have seen escalators especially when you go to a mall. Say for instance you are on the first floor of the mall and get on an escalator to go to the upper floor but realize you instead want to go to the Apple store that was on the first floor. You would have to work extremely hard to get back down the escalator once you’re on it. Conflict is the same way. Say you get into a disagreement with someone. The conflict begins to escalate and once you get on the escalator, it’s hard to get off. That’s why you should always think before you act. Make sure you don’t perceive their differences for rudeness.”

The educational summit was powerful for the youth in the room. Kids that may never have crossed paths sat together to discuss different social dynamics and as a result began to appreciate each others’ differences.

Following the three activities, the youth went to the court to shoot around with Celtics legend Dana Barros. Barros addressed the group prior to playing basketball. He spoke about being raised by his grandmother in Mattapan, Mass..

“I could have gone down a lot of bad paths,” said Barros. “But I knew that I wanted to play basketball. If I was going to have any future with basketball I couldn’t go around starting fights, failing classes or anything like that. Instead I practiced every day and made sure I had good grades so I would have the chance to play in college. Because of my decisions as teenager to follow the right path, I was able to get a scholarship for college.”

One parent summed up the event very well by saying, “This was a great day for my son. You always try to steer them in the right direction but sometimes it takes other people like Dana, Dave and Matt to really get the point across. My son learned a lot today and I will always be grateful for that. I also learned things. The way I perceive people from now on will be much different.”