Irondale High School breaks down cultural barriers, creates conversation with IZI event

Irondale High School joined forces with the local community on Jan. 30 to participate in an Intentional Social Interaction, or IZI, event.

IZI events, which are modeled by a Minnesota non-profit called Manita’s Table, serve as an opportunity to bring people from different races, classes and cultures together to create dialogue in positive and inclusive ways, especially with those who are usually left out of the conversations.

This years theme was “Know Your Neighbor.”

“It is a way to bring a sense of community and bring all of those different backgrounds together,” said Irondale High School Principal Amy Janacek. “We are really using it as a way to just have great conversations with people from different generations and places within the community and it all takes place over food. Food is a wonderful way to get people to relax and just and feel more welcome and be casual.”

Since 2005, over 31,000 people have participated in IZI events with the ultimate goal being to dismantles racism and other ‘isms’ and catalyzes collaboration through coupling innovative experience and environmental engineering with adult action learning.

The gatherings aim to erase stereotypes while etching positive cross-cultural reality into participants’ neural pathways. The idea is that positive reality supplants negative stereotypes.

“We had about 120 to 150 people attend the event,” said Janacek. “It was a really great seeing people from all those different areas come together.”

Apart from creating sustainable community engagement, IZI evens give students opportunities for leadership.

The students helped coordinate and lead the event,” said Janacek “It really empowers students and offers students a voice that adults will listen to. Typically, adults are telling kids what to do or making decisions for them but this event was really a neutral opportunity for students to put questions out there and have community members ask questions and really engage in conversation with students.”

During the Feb. 14 council meeting, students from Irondale High School were recognized by the New Brighton Mayor Val Johnson for their efforts in bridging cultural gaps.

“It was a life changing moment for me as mayor of this community seeing how you brought neighborhoods together,” Said Johnson. “The young men and women at Irondale are really a phenomenal group of people.”

“It really did mean a lot that you guys were there,” said Irondale senior Mariah Hanson. “I thought it was amazing and it was such an honor to speak that night. It was really important.”

Irondale plans to host a second IZI event in partnership with the other schools in the district this spring.

For more information about IZI event, visit marnitastable.org.

Contact Sam Lenhart at [email protected]