Stephen F. Austin State University student Kayla King reads "What a Wonderful World" to children during the recent "Passport to DiverCity" event at the Greater East Texas Community Action Program Head Start campus. SFA students in the School of Human Sciences collaborated with GETCAP Head Start to host an event to celebrate diversity.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in human development and family studies courses in the School of Human Sciences recently hosted "Passport to DiverCity," a collaborative multicultural event between the university and Greater East Texas Community Action Program Head Start.

Event participants celebrated cultural and racial diversity through myriad activities, including face painting, games, reading and more.

Dr. Flora Farago, assistant professor of human development and family studies at SFA, teamed with Head Start members to be the driving force behind this endeavor.

"We had two primary goals. One, we wanted to celebrate the identities and cultures represented at Head Start. Two, we wanted to expose participants to other cultures represented in the greater Nacogdoches community," Farago said.

Since January, SFA students enrolled in HMS 236: Child Development have been planning this event. Initially, students developed and administered a survey to Head Start parents and family members to gauge their expectations for the event.

"The research component allowed students to think critically about how to ask sensitive questions about ethnic-racial socialization in early childhood contexts and how to create a family-friendly event responsive to the needs of the families served," Farago said.

Students then researched and planned more than 100 cultural activities. Head Start members selected a handful of the activities for the event, and the remainder of the activities will exist as a resource for Head Start teachers.

During the event, SFA students led activities such as painting a "Colors of Us" handprint mural, cultural reading and more. Students also served authentic Nigerian food, which a family from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria prepared.

"Students were able to put into practice what we learned in the classroom. They worked with actual families and children from diverse cultural backgrounds and put on a real event," Farago said. "This event and similar projects take what they learn beyond the textbook and the classroom walls."

SFA students in Farago's course also are required to conduct 15 hours of observation at Head Start during the semester, as well as participate in a service-learning project. Dian Wise, education coordinator for Head Start, said the collaboration is mutually beneficial.

"Our collaboration with SFA helps raise awareness among the community for Head Start and SFA," Wise said. "These children are our future. Our goal is to help children be successful. We want them to prosper and do well."

Dr. Lauren Burrow, assistant professor in the Department of Elementary Education, was among the volunteers at the event.

This event was partially funded through a service-learning mini grant Farago received from SFA's Office of Student Affairs.

Stephen F. Austin State University student Azea Gluff helps children from Nacogdoches' Greater East Texas Community Action Program Head Start use chopsticks during a game at the "Passport to DiverCity" event. Various stations were set up with cultural games, food and activities.