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Fostering respect

"Respect is a higher form of appreciation for another person," she said. "Often people might say they tolerate someone. It tends to give a connotation of just putting up with someone, and we try to move beyond just putting up with someone and actually respecting them and understanding where they come from."

The event, geared at middle school and high school students from around the region, was held at Siena to give the young people a chance to experience the environment of a college campus. With universities sometimes serving as the melting pot for various cultures, Jackett said it is important to expose children to different ways of life as early as possible.

"At any age level, it's important to expose students to all kinds of diversity and give them the opportunity to experience diversity in all its forms," she said. "We take a very broad spectrum approach to the concept of diversity. Often when we think of diversity we think of the visual diversity such as skin color, race and ethnicity, or perceived race and ethnicity, but often there might be layers of diversity that are hidden below the surface."

This would include components such as socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, so opening students up to different situations of diversity would allow them to process these differences and be able to recognize them, said Jackett.

Dr. Peter Ellard, chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series at Siena, said the conference lets the college see what high school students are experiencing at their own schools and it helps students understand Siena's sincerity in promoting diversity.

"They get to understand that we're serious about this," he said. "This is a very important issue, and we take their experiences as very important ones."

During the day, students were separated into different classrooms where they participated in workshops. Eric Eisenstein, a trainer for the ADL, helped facilitate activities that placed students in cultures other than their own.

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