Become culturally competent

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By The Staff

This week, we look at Asset #34, Cultural Competence. According to the Search-Institute, “Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they have knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic background.”

Our community should be one of the best with this Asset. Nationally, 42 percent of youth report having this asset and 47 percent of our local youth, according to the most recent data, also report having this asset.

The winter holidays are a great opportunity for us to easily experience different cultures. The youngest children are the most open to experiencing things without bias or putting up barriers.

The Jewish Center and the United Church of Los Alamos share a service around Thanksgiving. The organizations work together on the service, sing a variety of songs from both faiths and even rotate the service annually between the two sites. After the service, the members share foods brought by members.

There are a variety of cultures in the community that we an experience on a daily basis and could build upon by asking or answering a few simple questions.

UNM-LA and a local church both offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The students come from many backgrounds speaking a variety of languages from Chinese to Russian.

The classmates have shared their experiences with other entities in town so they may become aware of what ESL students encounter during their transition to our culture.

Local elementary schools often open their doors, bringing in people from a variety of backgrounds so children can experience foods, music and customs from other countries.

The middle school years are an opportunity for youth to experience different groups of peers and for paths to cross, sometimes for the first time.

It is the chance for parents to learn new words like emo and acquire new skills like text messaging. It is also a chance for youth to broaden their circles of friendship and activities.

The high school years open up even more cultural experiences and a sense of being open to respecting different values from religion and politics to sexuality.

If you have any influence over what a young person reads, try to convince a young person to read “Life Strategies for Teens” by Jay McGraw. McGraw is the son of the famous Dr. Phil, and turns the tables with some life principles with a focus on youth.

The younger McGraw educates the masses about how to play the game of life on a daily basis at this age. He examines the sub cultures in the school setting, highlighting the attributes and drawbacks of each.

Mesa Public Library staff showcases books featuring holidays, places, customs and traditions. Families can check out books or rent movies and discuss situations or reflect on events in a safe, non-threatening way.

Our society is comprised of many differences, apparent and non-apparent and everyone needs to be tolerant of other views even if they don’t match your own.

As adults, we need to accept it and model good behavior. Sometimes a person is promoted or a project moves forward that we don’t agree with, but we learn to live with it.

If you know of an example, discuss it with your child. If they have views concerning a particular subject, allow them to have their say, but in a reasonable way.

If you still are uncertain that you’re on the right track, purchase a copy of “40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child” by Barbara Mathias and Mary Ann French.

The book published by Harper Collins provides age specific advice from tot to teen and in between. As adults, we don’t always know the answer, but it our tech savvy society, the answers are easy to find.

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Coordinator of the Assets In Action program and comments are welcome at 661-4846 or at AssetsInAction@att.net. This community approach is sponsored by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.