Mountlake Terrace City Council honors youth with April 23 Children’s Day proclamation

At the April 11 Mountlake Terrace City Council meeting, students from Brighton School, Brier Terrace Middle School and Mountlake Terrace High School received proclamations for Children’s Day.

The City of Mountlake Terrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) last week hosted a reception for students to honor the city council’s proclamation of Children’s Day.

Students, parents and teachers gathered in the Civic Campus lobby for refreshments and cake — cut and served by Deputy City Manager Carolyn Hope — before the April 11 council meeting, during which the council proclaimed April 23 Children’s Day in Mountlake Terrace.

Deputy City Manager Carolyn Hope cut and served cake for all the guests.
Mountlake Terrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission Vice Chair Kerem Onat proposed the idea of Children’s Day.
Councilmember Laura Sonmore answers questions from Brighton School students.

The idea for Children’s Day was brought to the DEIC by Turkish resident and DEIC Vice-Chair Kerem Onat. 

He told the audience that on April 23 each year, there is a unique tradition in Turkey where government officials symbolically give their seats to children for the day. This allows youth to experience leadership roles and decision-making processes firsthand. 

“Additionally, this holiday is a special occasion where children from all over the world come to Turkey to perform their traditional dances and songs, further enriching the cultural exchange and understanding,” Onat said. “This proclamation reflects our shared values of honoring the potential within every child.”

The Brighton School Choir sings “Big World, Small World” led by teacher Kaori Okada.

The Brighton School Choir, comprised of fourth and fifth graders, sang Big World, Small World, led by teacher Kaori Okada.

Okada is originally from Sapporo, Japan. “Yes, the beer place,” she jokingly confirmed before the question was asked.

She has lived in the Pacific Northwest for three years on a teacher exchange program and has previously taught in China and India. She said the diversity of attendees reflected at the DEIC reception was unlike anything she had seen in Japan or any Asian country, and she found it wonderful.

L-R: DEIC member Vonita Francisco speaks with students Bersaveh Yilma, Katie Larios, Bersaveh Yilma and Tesnim Abduselam.

Following the choir was a presentation by the Mountlake Terrace High School Black Student Union (BSU) — represented by BSU President Amaya Brazil, BSU Secretary Tesnim Abduselam, and BSU Public Relations officer Bersaveh Yilma — and the Latino Student Union (LSU) President Katie Larios.

DEIC member Vonita Francisco, who served as a master of ceremonies, explained that the Mountlake Terrace High School students’ work is the equivalent of what the DEIC does for the city. 

Abduselam presented the BSU’s goals: to create a safe environment for Black students at MTHS and help them be heard and seen by the school government.

Bersaveh Yilma speaks with Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright after receiving the proclamation for Children’s Day.
Brier Terrace Middle School’s Emily Francisco bumps elbows with Councilmember Steve Woodard while Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Wahl and Councilmember Rick Ryan wait their chance to greet the students.
L-R: Councilmember Erin Murray and students Amaya Brazil and Katie Larios stand in the reception line after the proclamation is declared.

Yilma explained that BSU plays games like “Agree to Disagree,” where they discuss a topic such as cultural appropriation and hold educational sessions for freshmen on topics such as word usage and context. An example she gave was a teacher using the word “negro” in an academic or historical context versus the similar-sounding racial slur.

“Being a student of color can be difficult when you’re at a predominantly white school,” Brazil said. “Black voices are low outside of sports.”

She noted that only 6.3% of Mountlake Terrace High School students are black.

Latino Student Union President Katie Larios speaks about the organization’s accomplishments as Black Student Union (BSU) President Amaya Brazil, BSU Secretary Tesnim Abduselam and BSU Public Relations Manager Bersaveh Yilma view the data on a screen.

Larios told the council that the primary goal of the Latino Student Union is to host events where students can celebrate their identity. This includes engaging in fun group activities and discussions on topics involving  the Latino community.

Then, Emily Francisco and Evie Courtney of Brier Middle School presented their concerns to the city council.

Evie Courtney (left) of Brier Terrace Middle School speaks about the danger she faces when walking to school without a sidewalk. Emily Francisco (right) suggested reducing plastic waste at the school by switching to metal utensils.

Francisco conducted a lunchtime experiment in elementary school to determine the amount of plastic cutlery waste generated. She found that the bin was filled by the end of the day.

She requested that schools switch to metal cutlery to reduce plastic waste created by school lunches.

Courtney talked about the missing sidewalk on her way to school. She said that sections of the road are hazardous during the winter months and in the morning when it is  dark.

Although the children will not symbolically trade seats with the city council on April 23, their voices have been heard.

— Story and photos by Rick Sinnett

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