UHS Participates in UC Irvine Racial Equality Program

Luke Liao, Staff Writer 

In the wake of nationwide protests over racial injustice earlier this year, UHS participated in UCI’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Healing Program (DIRHA) for the first time. 

DIRHA was created by the University of California, Irvine in response to the race-based violence of the 2017 Charlottesville protest to help Orange County high school students build empathy around gender, race, and sexuality through conversations and a project for their respective school. Towards the end of the program, in late April, students of the same school work together on a project to encourage diversity and inclusion at their school.

During the first DIRHA session, students engaged in discussions regarding identity, privilege, and bias. These conversations are facilitated by UCI students who serve as mentors for the high school students.

There are currently 14 high schools across Orange County that participate in DIRHA. A group of 15 sophomores and juniors from UHS were selected to participate in DIRHA after filling out a Google Form application. Applicants had to be current sophomores or juniors to apply. The program sought diverse students of different racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds who had an interest in having conversations about their experiences.

“I think DIRHA is a program that’s finally tackling the issues that everyone is afraid to talk about,” said DIRHA participant and junior Nathaneo Johnson. “Given the recent proliferation of polarization among race, gender, sexuality [and more], it’s important that we create optimum environments in which we can discuss and innovate new ways to tackle these issues in our society.”

Mr. Dominic Fratantaro, the advisor for Uni’s DIRHA program, was introduced to the program through an old friend.

“I went to UCI and I still have a close friend that is part of the Social Science department at UCI so I know that UCI does amazing stuff.  I happened to be looking through their site… and I came across the program,” Fratantaro said. “I was really impressed by what the program offered so I reached out to the directors and attended a Zoom info meeting to get more details.”

With the recent Black Lives Matter movement and protests following the killing of George Floyd, the topic of diversity, whether it is race, gender, or sexuality, has been brought to the spotlight.

“After all the recent protests, I thought this would be a great time for our students to learn how to engage in difficult conversations around diversity, race, and inclusion,” Fratantaro said.

Another DIRHA participant, junior Shreyas Shetye agrees with Fratantaro, and finds the program valuable in teaching tolerance.

“[DIRHA] teaches you to respect another, regardless of race, religion, or sex,” Shetye said.

Fratantaro finds it especially important to get involved in DIRHA this year.

“This has been such a tough year for everybody so I am hoping this program is an experience that the students will learn from and use to grow individually,” Fratantaro said.