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Detroit Performer Mike Ellison Helps Roeper Students Plan Diversity Day

This year's Diversity Day will feature student-led workshops on how to foster respect and sensitivity among young people.

The students and staff at Birmingham's Roeper School will be celebrating their annual Diversity Day with a little help from a big name this year.

Actor, songwriter, poet and Detroit-based performer Mike Ellison has been working all year with various staff members and 19 students at the Roeper Upper School to plan the 2012 Diversity Day, to be held all day today at the school's Birmingham campus.

The goal of Roeper's Diversity Day is to build community by focusing on how to honor all parts of a person — from their religion, apperance, political views and more. The students planning Diversity Day look to raise awareness and encourage sensitivity among their classmates, Roeper spokeswoman Carri Hammers said.

To plan Diversity Day, students have been working closely with Ellison, Upper School Director Lisa Baker and Roeper's diversity coordinator, Carolyn Lett.

Aside from his accomplishments in the literary sphere, Ellison is also an MC and activist, with frequent appearances on HBO's Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry. In 2007, Ellison opened the three-network simulcast of a football game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants and is a member of Detroit's 2002 Natioanl Slam Poetry Championship team.

"(Ellison) was able to lead the Roeper students through a creative process that resulted in the students feeling empowered to be peer leaders in their own Roeper community," a press release from Roeper reads. "Mike and the students spent many hours working together to plan a meaningful, powerful and engaging diversity experience for all."

During Diversity Day, Roeper students, faculty and staff will begin and end the day together as a community. Time together will include songs, dance and videos.

During the remainder of the day, students will be split from their teachers, with each group attending various peer-led workshops. The conversations, exercises and facilitation will focus on how to have respectful conversations regardless of one's personal beliefs. Students and staff will also enjoy a cultural luncheon made up of several ethnic cuisines.

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