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DLI Anniversary Celebration

Last updated June 9, 2014

By News administrator

The Diversity Leadership Initiative, part of Furman University’s Riley Institute, celebrated 10 years of achievement and unveiled Unite South Carolina, a magazine that looks at 10 of those successes, at a breakfast hosted by Michelin North America on June 9.

Dick Riley, former South Carolina governor and U.S. secretary of education, attended as did Michelin officials, DLI and Riley Institute officials, various DLI graduates, and others involved in the program.

Over DLI’s 10 years, more than 1,300 leaders in the state have participated in the program. The leaders have worked in teams to improve the lives of South Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens.

Over DLI’s first 10 years, more than 1,400 leaders in the state participated in the program.

“The whole program has worked extremely well,” and has contributed to changing lives, said Pete Selleck, president and chairman of Michelin North America. He said he’s proud that 96 Michelin managers have participated in DLI over the years.

DLI, begun in 2003, has partnered through the years with corporations and government, said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

“The impact is continuous and it’s widespread,” he said. “Sometimes it’s low key” and other times more visible. But leaders throughout the state have learned that diversity is “an effective tool for progress for everyone.”

South Carolina has become a “national leader in using diversity as an advantage,” he said.

Susan Shi, Ph.D., was a member of the first DLI class and pointed out that while individuals can make a difference, the collective impact of all DLI graduates is huge.

Riley agreed: “I don’t think there is any end to what OneSouthCarolina can do.” OneSouthCarolina is an association of the DLI graduates.

Calder Ehrmann, who was the chief diversity officer at Michelin when DLI was begun and is now a senior associate with the Riley Institute, said that Juan Johnson, the program’s facilitator, “has changed the landscape in South Carolina in so many ways.”

Johnson unveiled Unite South Carolina, which took a year to bring together with the writing and photography of Jean Shifrin. Currently, the magazine is available in print and online at the Riley Institute. An interactive magazine also will be available soon.

“I thought we could capture the essence of what DLI is all about,” he said. The program “is about bring people together and allowing conversations to happen and relationships to happen.” In the end, however, it is about action that will improve the state.

Unite South Carolina portrays 10 projects, undertaken by teams of DLI participants throughout the state.

Team Mozaik, a spring 2007 DLI class, included Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen and YMCA of Greater Charleston President Paul Stoney. The group created Camp Hope, a community action project that works with low-income and under-served children and seeks to connect the community and the police department.

“On one of my first walks through the East Side, I encountered a kid that was eating dirt—literally eating dirt,” Mullen said in the magazine. “And most of the kids I saw would not even look at me. They would run away when I walked down the street, and I found that totally unacceptable. So I decided right then that we would do something to change the perception of police in that community.”

Another program is Unite Summerton, a project that brings high school students together to work to achieve racial unity in a divided town. Summerton is the town that produced a case later combined with other school desegregation cases to become Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas—which eventually provided for the integration of public schools.

That decision provoked the flight of white students in Summerton to a private school while the black students remained in the public schools. In a town of fewer than 1,000 residents, “the students live mostly separate lives on opposite sides of town,” said Shifrin. Students from both high schools have come together to unite as one, provide service from leadership, improve race relations, and beautify their town.

Other projects include Dream Connectors, a Greenville program that exposes middle school students to the career and life dreams they can achieve; Sunday Super Stars, a program that allows children with special needs to explore the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry without the Museum’s normal crowds; and Cycle for Change, a bike program for Greenville youngsters that exposes them to more than just biking.

The magazine also features a program that helps food-service workers learn to prepare healthier meals for elementary school students to help combat childhood obesity; a Columbia program that teams autistic children with non-autistic kids for arts and crafts, outdoor play and lunch; a mobile recreation van that brings recreational tools to kids in Greenville parks; and a natural diversity program that connects diverse high school students in the Lowcountry to one another and to nature.

Johnson said of DLI, “I think what we’re most proud of is that the leaders really get engaged. We want to look for opportunities to bring the three parts of the state together. People can make a difference in this state. People can change lives in this state.”

Learn more about the Diversity Leadership Initiative.





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