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How furloughed Disney workers are helping to diversify the classroom

New nonprofit provides free books

ORLANDO, Fla. – For two young women, being furloughed from their dream job at the Walt Disney Company led them to do their part in hopes of making a difference in society.

“Racism isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something taught,” said Kaylin Bergeson, the director of the nonprofit Diversify the Classroom. “So, the younger you’re given these tools to, like, accept everyone and then love yourselves, the more tolerant an adult you’ll end up being.”

In June, the 27-year-old, along with her friend, Maya Brooks, who was also furloughed by Disney, ventured out to create their charity after seeing the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement.

“We had to really sit down and figure out you know, like, how can we do something to make a difference and that will leave an impact for many generations to come,” Brooks said.

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So they embarked on a mission to make the world a better place one classroom at a time through reading.

“Whenever it’s time for them to go into adulthood to be future police officers, or government officials or even teachers, they’ll bring these lessons and keep spreading it forward,” Brooks said.

They deliver books to classrooms around the country for free.

“Books are a great way to expose kids to things that they -- that are outside of their everyday life,” Brooks said.

Bergeson and Brooks said it’s about representation and providing the means for a better education. The books they donate feature characters from different races, ethnicities and religions.

“I love learning about cultures, I love eating different foods, trying different things,” Bergeson said. “I think that makes me more of a well-rounded person and I feel like other people need that opportunity as well.”

It’s a rewarding experience even as they struggle through their own hardships during the pandemic.

“It’s been great to see honestly, just these kids, like, accepting other peoples’ cultures and getting excited about books,” Bergeson said. “I’m so glad we put our energy into doing this.”

Among the first recipients, is Brooks’ elementary school where she said there was not much diversity in their selection of books.

“For me to go back and donate these diverse books and, like, give these new children, this next generation the opportunity that I didn’t have, to feel more included, like, it was really something meaningful to me,” Brooks said.

Since starting the charity, 53 classrooms in Florida and in 13 other states have received books.

To learn more about the organization or to make a donation to help the furloughed Disney employees with their mission, click here.


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