ADA, Mich. — A few weeks ago, Colleen Fuelling read an article about a family in the area that was experiencing racism at Forest Hills Public Schools, where her kids attended as well. She said online the community was divided about what happened.
However, Fuelling wasn’t. It sounded familiar.
“I’m not going to lie, this has all really affected me as a parent in the sense that I want to take my kid out of the district,” Fuelling said during an interview with FOX 17 on Tuesday. “I live here and my kid--I actually had applied to a GRPS school for this coming year.”
Fuelling is from the Detroit area and grew up in mixed-race and multicultural settings, she said. She wants the same for her children.
So, she and other parents and alum created Forest Hills For Social Change, a community organization that has honest conversations about inclusion, diversity and racial healing.
“I want the conversations to happen. We have to have the hard conversations. Otherwise, how are we going to change?” Fuelling said. “How are we going to change anything if we can’t listen to other people’s points of view?”
🗣 “We have to have the hard conversations” 🫂— Lauren Edwards (@LaurenEdwardsTV) March 17, 2021
These moms in Ada are on a mission to combat racism in their community and schools by having honest conversations about diversity and inclusion. // @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/cgURY8K1c8
Fuelling added that they also talk about classicism, homophobia, prejudice and discrimination toward people with disabilities. Many people are affected by these 'isms' as she called it and were touched by the article.
“As an empath, I couldn’t sleep at night. It was hurting my heart, and I wanted to do something about it and get a conversation at least going,” said Michelle VanAllsburg, who co-created the group with Fuelling. “A lot of people on Facebook were coming together and sharing their thoughts on it. Like Colleen, I just was tired of being stuck at home, not being a part of a solution.”
So, VanAllsburg started creating signs of unity to let the victims of racism know that they’re supported. VanAllsburg grew up in the area and said she knows what they're going through.
“I was one of the only Jewish kids in the community, you know; 20-something years ago, there was not as many prevalent there, and I went through some things,” VanAllsburg said. “I had a pretty strong backbone. Not a lot of kids do. My mom raised me very strong. So, I liked to stand up for people when I was young.”
She still does.
VanAllsburg said the group has met a few times, and they recently launched their page. They’ve made signs and decals that they’d like to sell in an effort to raise money for inclusivity programs like Forest Hills’ Global Leaders Initiative. They’d also like to buy and donate books to elementary schools, ones that promote multiculturalism and racial diversity. Nevertheless, their ultimate goal is to help make Ada as welcoming and inclusive for everyone who lives in the community.
“We just want to spread the message of love and acceptance. It really is as simple as that,” Fuelling said. “If we just focus on accepting everybody and loving everybody, we can make this a better community, but it goes beyond what's happening in the school.”