She's So Cosmo Girl!

… because she's changing how her classmates think about diversity

COSMO Girl! magazine, September 2006

“I was born in Mexico, and my family moved to Ohio when I was a year old. As the only Hispanic in my grade, I never felt like I fit in. Most kids at my all-girls private school are white and affluent, and my family isn’t.

“I remember hearing girls say stuff that made me realize they thought everyone lived the same lifestyle as them. It wasn’t their fault, it was just what they'd been exposed to—but it still bugged me. Junior year of high school, I attended the Take the Lead program at Mount Holyoke College, where girls work to further a cause they're passionate about. I knew what I wanted to do: I wrote a proposal for an elective course at my school to get students thinking about diversity.

“A few months later, my weekly ‘Diversity Seminar’ had been approved, and I was named coinstructor, along with several teachers. This past year, 15 students (a normal class size) took the course, which was more of a fun, open discussion than a formal class. We talked about race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and topics like immigration and women in media. Students did projects that forced them to leave their comfort zones. One girl who didn’t have obesity in her family researched what it’s like to be overweight in America. She said she learned so much about biases that she never would have known if it weren’t for my class. Inspiring her to open her mind felt amazing, and so did finding out my course will continue to be offered even though I’ve graduated.

“If anyone reading this sees an opportunity to help others embrace diversity, I say go for it!

– Take the Lead participant Shaina Muñoz.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher