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NEWS | Feb. 15, 2013

Discover different cultures as a Special Observance Committee chairman

By Tech Sgt. Melanie Thermidor Tech Sgt. Melanie Thermidor

Whenever I teach a human relations course, students typically ask me a number of questions. One in particular always stands out - it addresses my ethnicity. I use this as an opportunity to educate the students on my Hispanic heritage, by having them use their perceptions to learn about different people's backgrounds.

I also use the students' statements as an example to explain how perceptions can sometimes lead to discrimination. People rely heavily on their perceptions to define their reality, but it is important for everyone to have awareness of other people's values, cultures and beliefs.

One way to promote this awareness is through special observances. Some people might think these observances are geared toward a specific ethnic group, but that would be wrong. The Special Observance Program is a great way for anyone to learn more about different cultures and backgrounds.

The program is a wing-sponsored program which enhances cross-cultural awareness and promotes diversity among all military and family members, civilian employees and retirees. Additionally, participation in special observance programs assists with combating stereotypical behaviors, promoting a diverse workplace and maintaining a healthy human relations climate.

Currently, there are nine special observances which are recognized by the DOD: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, African-American History Month, Women's History Month, "Days of Remembrance" for victims of the Holocaust, Asian Pacific-American Heritage Month, Women's Equality Day, Hispanic Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month and National American Indian Heritage Month.

There are many key elements which play an essential role in sponsoring a special observance, including a strong command support, a planning and fundraising committee and a chairman. Some of your responsibilities as chairman may include soliciting volunteers, preparing and coordinating all official correspondence, and supporting and assisting your sub-committee leads.

The committees are open to everyone; you don't have to be Hispanic to be a part of the Hispanic Heritage Committee.

For more information on becoming a chairman or volunteer, contact the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Equal Opportunity Office at (757) 764-5877 or (764) 764-5878.