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UNH Employees Spread Diversity Message

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Artist's study of the diversity mural being made by Portsmouth High School students with the help of artist Richard Haynes, associate director of Admissions, and Sean McGhee, director of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Sean McGhee, director of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Richard Haynes, associate director of Admissions and an artist, have been talking diversity with students at Portsmouth High School. Now that group, under Haynes’ guidance, is creating a mural that will be displayed in the school.

McGhee and Haynes are doing the project in partnership with the Seacoast Martin Luther King Coalition based in Portsmouth. During the past several weeks, they have led a series of diversity training sessions for a volunteer group of Portsmouth High School students, creating an environment for them to examine biases and stereotypes related to such issues as race, gender, religion, economic-class and sexual orientation. The discussions also touched on how those ideas influence people’s ability to be effective leaders in creating acceptance and unity in a community. 

“The students have been working with a genuineness and openness of mind and heart that makes them role models and leaders on their high school campus,”  McGhee says. “They are also on the potential path of being inclusive and equitable community members, role models and leaders for the future as well. I have also learned much from them.”   

Following the diversity training, several students began working with Haynes to artistically express the concepts of social justice and diversity based on the theme, "What Diversity Means to Our Generation."  

Those concepts are being turned into a mural that will be unveiled during the Seacoast Martin Luther King Coalition’s breakfast celebration Monday, Jan.16 at 8:30 a.m. at the Jarvis Center in Portsmouth.  Eventually the mural will be permanently displayed at the high school.  

“To hear the students respond—to hear what they had in their heads and in their hearts—was absolutely amazing,” Haynes says. “They had the ability to be free and were articulate in expressing themselves. Working with them has been a wonderful experience.”

Work on the mural continues throughout the week. Employees from the UNH Admission Office have volunteered to help students with the painting this weekend so the mural will be ready from the Monday celebration.

The project was a collaboration between Portsmouth High School, McGhee and Haynes, and the Seacoast MLK, Jr. Coalition. PHS principal Jeff Collins ’92 has also been actively involved, as have other PHS administrators.