Hindu Temple of Bloomington Normal is hosting a March 19 community event for all Bloomington-Normal residents, to help promote Not in our Town: Bloomington/Normal faith and outreach efforts. Attendees will have the opportunity to see the temple sanctum, learn about Sanatana Dharma – Hinduism - "and get a better sense about Hindus," temple President Chetan Desai said. The event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at 1815 Tullamore Avenue, Bloomington. As seating is limited, visitors are asked to RSVP at http://goo.gl/forms/qEZtKioea1.
Meanwhile, McLean County Diversity Project Veteran Scholar Aishwarya Shekara -- daughter of Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal Steering Committee member and Hindu community leader/McLean County India Association President Archana Shekara -- shared her experiences working to create a Not In Our School organization at Normal Community High School, in the latest Diversity Project newsletter:
"In case you don’t know me, my name is Aishwarya Shekara, I am sixteen years young, and I am a junior at Normal Community High School. I am sixteen years young. Yes, if you read that correctly, I am not old. I have not experienced life at its fullest, I have not endured heartbreak, struggle, or poverty. But, I have felt hope. Hope so great for our small town, our diverse nation, and our ever changing world.
In October, tennis season was coming to end, and I was looking forward to binge watching Netflix and catching up with friends. I still hadn’t chosen a project for Diversity and the decision was looming over me. This was the first time since 7th grade I had no project, no ideas, nothing that would get me on the trip! My guess is (Diversity Project Director) Jeff Schwartz used his Ozark/Salem/Ceil witch magic (do we even know what that means?) to decipher my need of a project. He approached me and asked if I had heard of Not In Our School (NIOS). I said yes, because my mom had mentioned it. So, Jeff told me to contact (NIOTBN Education Chairman Camille Taylor), and we all decided to meet at Barnes and Noble. My comrade and fellow Diversity Project Scholar, Kavya, was there as well, and we discussed and brainstormed ways to start a NIOS club in Normal Community. I left the meeting feeling inspired, and hopeful that I could make a change in my high school.
I want to thank Jeff and Camille for sitting down with Kavya and I that day. Without your belief in us, NIOS wouldn’t exist in NCHS. I never would have met so many amazing people from Not in Our Town, and the community. I want to thank you guys so much for all your support and blessings. No thank you will ever be enough; NIOS has given me hope for students that we can change the world by solving everyday issues at school.
Starting the club was easier said than done. Kavya and I faced several dilemmas, but we never gave up. We want NCHS to support intolerance, anti- bullying, and end racism. Our goal is to make the school a more inclusive environment that supports the entire student body.
I think we're getting there.
With the help of our esteemed advisor Mr. Kelly Keogh, Normal Community’s Not in Our School had its first official meeting in the first week of February. The very next week we organized an event called Operation Beautiful for Valentine's Day. Operation Beautiful reminds students that they are important through compliments and nice words. Our goal was to write a compliment on a sticky note for every locker. There are approximately 2000 lockers at Normal Community! Through the help of NIOS students from Normal West, Future Business Leaders of America members, and Culture Club, we finished writing and putting up the sticky notes in an hour! I thought it was a miracle we finished at 3:45! I expected to stay until 5:00, but with the help and support from so many amazing people, we made every student smile the next day.
As I strolled down the hallways after all the sticky notes were put up, I took a moment to document this image in my memory. I have volunteered in the past, but this was different. This was something beautiful. I was part of something beautiful, something that would make a stranger smile, something that would remind students that they are loved and cared for at our school. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in my life or felt true happiness until that day.
So when asked about my life and experiences, I say this: I have faced no real hardships, heartbreak, or pain. But I am lucky to enough to have felt hope and happiness. Serving Not In Our School has given happiness I will never forget, and hope that our future will be a better place if we choose to make it one."