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Schools Get $10,000 Grant for Program to Soothe Racial Tensions


ALHAMBRA — Imagine a class devoted to discussing racial tension and conflict resolution among Latino and Asian students.

A class where teen-agers act out scenarios of ethnic stereotyping and then show the hurt and damage it can cause to individuals.

A class where everyone, from the class president to a basketball jock, can learn leadership skills to avoid racial conflict, then pass on what they have learned through peer counseling.

That is exactly the type of program the Alhambra School District hopes to set up with a $10,000 grant it received Thursday from Southern California Edison Co.

The check was turned over to the Multi-Cultural Community Assn. of the San Gabriel Valley, which was formed two years ago under another name after violence erupted between Latino and Asian students at San Gabriel High School, leading to several injuries and arrests.

A second incident in February at Mark Keppel High School, in which 24 students were expelled and three charged with battery, reinforced the association's position that ongoing racial tension and cultural misunderstandings must be dealt with before more violence occurs.

The group, which until recently was called the West San Gabriel Valley Multi-Ethnic Task Force, is composed of Latinos, Asians and Anglos who are educators, parents and civic and business leaders.

"We all have one goal, to promote inter-group relations," said Marina Tse, the group's co-chair, who also is president of the Chinese-American PTA of Southern California.

"We aren't just reacting to inter-ethnic conflict," said Jose Calderon, the other co-chair, who teaches Chicano studies and sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont. "Instead, we're trying to come up with preventive measures."

The grant is the culmination of two years of work by the Multi-Cultural Community Assn., which lobbied the Alhambra School District to establish a hate crimes policy and start a human relations advisory committee to address ethnic tension.

The group also wrote the Edison grant proposal to set up an ongoing conflict resolution training program for up to 50 Alhambra students at a time, using two teachers who will develop a specialized curriculum based on the district's needs.

Calderon, through Pitzer College, also has received a $16,000 grant to study race relations in the Alhambra district. Calderon and Pitzer students are expected to present their findings and recommendations at the end of this year.

The conflict resolution pilot program will be launched this fall in Alhambra at Mark Keppel High School, which is almost two-thirds Asian and one-third Latino. Eventually, it may be expanded to other campuses.

Jim Hornbuckle, Edison general manager for the San Gabriel Valley region, said his company provided the grant to Alhambra schools because racial tension is an important issue that touches almost everyone.

"By establishing a curriculum . . . that will help to solve these problems . . . we're putting our money where our mouth is," Hornbuckle said.

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