Rebuilding for Learning Summit targeting diversity in La Crosse

Although La Crosse does not have huge diversity, it remains an important topic of conversation.

About 88 percent of the city’s population consists of white people.

But at the Rebuilding for Learning Summit today, diversity was the main focus.

“Sometimes we can look at something like the achievement gap and just think ‘well, the upper hands’ and say ‘well, there’s nothing we can do about that,”‘ Longfellow Middle School LMC Director Lila Planavsky said. “But there is and there are things that we can and need to be doing about that.”

70 percent of La Crosse middle school students of color were below grade reading level during last school year.

Planavsky says the district is looking to improve the achievement gap by having kids read books with diverse authors and characters.

By doing that, Planavsky says it gives kids thoughts of more acceptance to the people around them.

“Through literature, we can live for 200-300 pages for a couple hours in somebody else’s shoes and that can really open our minds and I think more importantly our hearts,” Planavsky said.

But Longfellow Middle School is not the only place around town trying to make strides in the achievement gap.

“Safe place for kids to be after school where they can build relationships with responsible adults that help them grow into being good teenagers, good adults, good citizens, and achieving some success in life,” The Good Fight Community Center founder and CEO Nathaniel Coleman said.

The community center provides tutoring and mentoring to students aged 10 to 18 who are interested in reading.

The center’s speciality? Bringing kids and tutors closer to one another.

“Somebody cared about them,” Coleman said. “Somebody loved them. Somebody presented them with challenges to help them think clearly and move to the next level in their with some confidence and some success.”

And he thinks it’s working.

“They keep coming back so that’s a good thing,” Coleman said.

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