What if we lived in a world where people would not be judged, belittled, or disrespected for their culture, values, beliefs, or preferences? It would be nice if we did. But the reality is that we don’t. What if we taught those students to be respectful towards others and take a stand against discrimination of any kind? It’s good to know that students can embrace what makes them who they are while getting their education. South Rowan has been in the spotlight lately. EducationNC wrote an article highlighting South Rowan High School’s culture shift.

Inclusion in Our Schools Elevates All

I have often times wondered what it would take for the students to create a better environment that embraces all people. So, I came up with the Mix It Up Club. When I started working for Rowan Salisbury Schools, I had the opportunity to work with the Mix It Up Club at Corriher Lipe Middle School. I continued assisting them until I moved from Corriher Lipe to South Rowan High School as an Intervention Specialist about five years ago. I asked my principal, Kelly Withers, if I could start a Mix It Up Club at South Rowan.

This gave me the opportunity to work with some of the same students since South Rowan was the feeder high school for the students at Corriher Lipe. The differences between South Rowan’s diversity club was that the students would volunteer to be a part of the club instead of being selected.

This was a great way to give students who get overlooked to be a part of something positive in their school community. As part of being in the club, the expectations are that students must evaluate themselves first and not impose their own personal beliefs on others. Students are also asked to be open to learn more about each other and be willing to do the right thing when making decisions at school. We talk about current events, not only in our local communities, but we also discuss events that take place around the world. We live in a diverse community, and our students must know that there are places that are even more diverse than ours. The students realize that there is a very diverse community outside of what they see daily.

South Rowan has done a phenomenal job by making sure that students have clubs that are inclusive to all students who are represented.  A group of students who are in the Mix It Up Club have taken on the challenge of creating an atmosphere where all South Rowan students regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual preference feel welcome. This club was not created to represent a particular group of people, but rather all who would like to be a part.  The key to the Mix It Up Club is that there has to be a representation of the students at South Rowan, not the majority or the minority, but a good mix of all who attend. Students are encouraged to get other members to join.

The club is comprised of 22 members. Janiya Downs is a senior and currently serves as the President of South Rowan’s Mix It Up Club. “As President, I’m responsible for making sure people know what Mix It Up is and getting more people involved,” explained Downs. “I joined Mix It Up in the 6th grade and have loved it ever since! That is why I continued it in high school because it gave me the opportunity to meet people that are different from one another,” said Downs.

Janiya Downs, President of South Rowan’s Mix It Up Club, with Principal Kelly Withers’ twins.


Representation Matters

The students enjoy taking time to provide service to their community. They recently went to Westside Headstart in China Grove and assisted teachers by spending time with the Headstart students. They read books to the students, played with them at their different stations, and went outside to play basketball. This was a wonderful way for the Mix It Up Club to give back to the community in which they live. The club has plans to do more service projects in the South Rowan area and to increase their knowledge about other cultures.

Member of the Mix It Up Club with Westside Headstart students.


Leadership and teambuilding have been discussed during the meetings. The club members have learned to be positive leaders, but also followers of doing the right thing. It is important for the students to know that they all can be positive leaders and their leadership will make an impact on their school. Horatio Everhart, Community Mentor and Founder of All Sports Sponsor, and Nicholas Means, Training & Development Officer at F&M Bank of Salisbury, facilitated a workshop on financial planning and the importance of balance, both mentally and financially. “My organization, All Sports Sponsor, mentors Rowan County youth and assists families in need who are interested in their children playing sports.

I grew up in a single parent home and was inspired by those who were very supportive of me while he was in school. I feel that this organization is the best way that I can give back to the youth in this community,” explains Everhart. “I came up with the idea of a financial planning workshop because high school students aren’t taught that in schools. It’s best they gain knowledge of scholarships, financial aid, and loans before college,” said Everhart. “In order for you to become financially literate, you have to have an education,” said Means. “There aren’t a lot of people who have great paying jobs who don’t at least have a high school diploma.” Means goes on to say, “In the words of Kendrick Lamar, our kids are “dying of thirst” and if we don’t feed them the proper diet, then somebody is going to give them the improper diet.”

Nicholas Means and Horatio Everhart


The Mix It Up Club has also learned to work together while recognizing how important each person is in the group. It has been important that I give them the opportunity to use what they have learned in Mix It Up to help themselves and others.

As the Mix It Up Club ends this school year, members have plans to visit Westside Headstart and Main Street Mission, both in the southern part of Rowan County. When asked what she hopes to see for the club after she graduates from South Rowan, Downs said, “In the future, I hope to see Mix It Up expand and do more outside of the school and in the community.”