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New Forest Hills community group spreading message of ‘love, acceptance’ to combat racism

Parents and alum of Forrest Hills Public Schools create new community group that fosters inclusivity and honest conversations
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‘We have to have hard conversations’: Parents, Forest Hills alum create inclusivity group to combat racism
Posted at 8:10 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 21:22:20-04

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.

RELATED: ‘It’s a way to teach, learn, grow’: Students, parents vouch for inclusivity at FHPS

“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?”

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.”

SEE MORE: 'Hidden Bias of Good People' special helps us to recognize our implicit bias

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