On Monday, Oct. 7, University of West Georgia students gathered in a Campus Center Ballroom for the “What’s up with that?” panel discussion. The panel consisted of eight people varying in class, major and race who came together to discuss the challenges, perceptions and experiences of different races and cultural backgrounds.

The event began as the panel introduced themselves: Sandtron Harrell, senior studying sociology; Carina Arellano-Garcia, sophomore studying early childhood education; Joy Okonkw, junior studying pre-med biology; Dave Ayers, instructor at West Georgia Technical College; Noah Moyer, freshman studying marketing; Alyssa Vandewater, junior studying mass communications; Vivian Wood, professor of sociology and Calvin Starr, junior studying biology.

The first question that the moderator asked was, “do you think that stereotypes can have a positive impact on society?” Majority of the panel agreed that almost all stereotypes are negative.

However, one panelist tries to think outside of stereotypes.

“I always try to see the positive within the negative,” said Arellano-Garcia. “So I see stereotypes as a motivation to break those barriers and show people that those stereotypes don’t always have to be negative.”

Harrell believes that stereotypes bring out the gifts in people when people choose to see these culturally-grouped assumptions as challenges.

“Of course stereotypes are unwanted,” said Harrell. “Because, somehow, society puts every single person within a stereotype. Stereotypes can make you or break you. It’s up to you if you want to accept it as defeat or a challenge.”

The next topic was the importance of education to each culture. There was an overwhelming sense of unity between the minorities as they almost all said that they were first-generation college students and how it is extremely important for them to attend college and graduate with a degree.

Harrell defined education within his culture to be viewed as a lame way to succeed but acknowledged that there is a lack of effort despite identifying education to be a very helpful tool to one’s future.

Originally from West Africa, Okonkw explained how children begin paying for school from the beginning of kindergarten.

“Unlike the United States where it’s free from kindergarten to high school, over there we pay as you go,” said Okonkw. “So when I came over here and saw so many people taking this opportunity for granted, [I thought] ‘whoa, you don’t know how many people would kill to be in your position right now.’”

The final question of the evening was “what are your views on the morals of this generation? What kind of impact does it have on your culture?” The panel and audience formed common themes between cultures and concluded that morals were not in sync the way they need to be and the key contributors were materialistic importance, social media and reality television shows and celebrities.

For more information about their organization, students are encouraged to attend their weekly meeting on Mondays at 8 p.m. in UCC room 312.

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