Roseville high schoolers open up about stereotypes


The Stereotypes Project, now on display at the Roseville Library. Mike Munzenrider photos

The exhibit features cards filled out by Roseville Area High School students speaking to how they are stereotyped, versus who they really are. Mike Munzenrider photos

A nondescript display at the Roseville Library reveals truths about area teens’ lives, anonymously written on multicolored pieces of paper.

“People think I am mean. The truth is I am struggling and have my own problems to deal with.”

“People think I am a liberal because I’m black. The truth is, I am a Trump supporter.”

“People think I am dumb, useless and can’t do nothing right. The truth is I am trying.”

The insights are a part of the Stereotypes Project, put together by the Teens For Human Rights Club at Roseville Area High School. Elizabeth Hansel, a 16-year-old junior at RAHS started the club two years ago, and came up with the idea for the project.

“We wanted to run a positive project that all the students could relate to,” Hansel says. “I realized that every student in the school had been stereotyped at some point in their life.”

One day in January this year, Hansel and other club members distributed the cards to teachers. Printed on each card were the phrases “People think I am ...” and “The truth is I am ...” Students were expected to finish each phrase.

Hansel says the goal of the project was to have students reflect on how they’re stereotyped — and thus how they may have stereotyped others.

The whole process of filling out the cards took all of five minutes, Hansel says, and in the end, the Teens For Human Rights Club was given some 2,000 responses.

Hansel says she was bowled over by the results.

“When we ran the project we weren’t sure if students would take it seriously — I suspected there would only be a handful of good responses,” Hansel says, “but I’d say 90 percent of students took it seriously.”

As club members sifted through the “deep and insightful” results, Hansel says patterns emerged: responses fell into categories pertaining to things like race, religion, mental health and sexuality.

Half of the cards were put up in three displays at RAHS. “The project got a lot of positive feedback from the staff,” Hansel says. 

After, a smaller display, featuring 400 responses, was installed for a couple of months at Roseville City Hall, where Hansel has some connections, as a youth commissioner on the city’s Human Rights, Engagement and Inclusion Commission.

 

‘A very 

moving project’

In late summer, the Stereotypes Project went up at the library.

John Bergeron, the principal circulation supervisor for Ramsey County Libraries, who works out of the Roseville location, says the project is drawing a lot of attention.

“People are commenting very positively and there’s a lot of curiosity,” he says. “There’s not a lot of information on the project statement so I fill them in on the fact it came from a high school student.”

Bergeron says Hansel has volunteered at the library for the past couple of years, and one day this summer, speaking to him and other managers, she brought up the possibility of displaying the project. It was a go.

“A lot of people come in with their kids on the weekend and it was really gratifying to see groups of family members moving from one [group of cards] to the other — you could see them discussing it,” Bergeron says.

“Taken as a whole, it is, to me, a very moving project,” he says.

Hansel says most everyone should be able to relate to it. 

“I think that if people look long enough and hard enough at the display,” she says, “everyone can find something to connect to, on some level.”

The project will be up at the library through the end of September, if not longer, and Bergeron says it’s drawing attention from elsewhere, as well.

An employee from the Minnesota Department of Education took a great interest in knowing more about the display, Bergeron says, indicating she was going to discuss the project with her supervisor.

He adds a woman from a local congregation asked him, “How long are you going to have it here? Because I want to have it at the church.”

 

See the Stereotypes Project, featuring answers from students at Roseville Area High School, put together by the school’s Teens For Human Rights Club, just off the main entry way of the Roseville Library. The library is located at 2180 Hamline Ave. N.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813


 

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