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Teens in Grafton celebrate their differences to help bridge divides

Posted at 11:23 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 23:23:19-04

GRAFTON, Ohio — A group of teens in Grafton are leading the charge for change in that community.

Sharing a few kind words comes naturally for eighth-grader Xavier Young.

"I see a smile. It makes their day better," said Young.

He didn't hesitate telling News 5 how he felt about fellow student Christine Delfosse.

"She's just a nice person and tries to help out when she can," said Young.

The friends get the chance to come together through Students from Change.

"He always tries to make people smile and laugh. It's fun just to be nice to each other and do those things because a lot of people in this world are not very nice," said Delfosse.

It gives Delfosse, who's in a self-contained class for students with multiple learning needs, and her peers, a chance to interact with classmates they may not otherwise see during the day.

"They want to be viewed as everybody else. They don't want to be looked at any differently," said Greg Dickson, intervention specialist, Midview Middle School.

The two sets of students with different backgrounds blend together to create a stronger sense of community.

"This just gave me an opportunity to meet more and more people, and now I'm really close with a bunch of people I didn't even know their names before," said Jillian Hubbard.

A connection is built on celebrating what they have in common through activities and positive conversations.

"It helps people get out of their comfort zones, communicating with other people," said student Cheyenne Davis.

Students for Change is not only focused on bridging divides, members also work to spread kindness.

Young, along with more than a dozen other members of the group, recently left uplifting messages on post-it-notes.

"You're beautiful, you're loved, you're kind, you can do it," said Young.

They were left in every single locker in the school.

"That might be the only positivity they get throughout the day, or throughout a week," said teacher Amy Crawford.

Crawford, the group’s facilitator, describes the discovery of the notes.

"They went to their locker in the morning, I watched all of them go. They're looking around, where's this coming from? And they're like, look how cool," said Crawford.

Small unexpected gestures go to great lengths to change attitudes and create inclusion.

"You would not be able to tell there was any differences between them when they come together, and that's what it's about," said Dickson.

It may all sound like a lot of heavy lifting, but not for Young and members of Students for Change.

"It's lovely. I like to have fun with other people and just have a good time," said Young.