Sharing the inclusion message inside the classroom

Community News

Sumit Kalra helps elementary kids complete their puzzle activity.   Inclusion Team member Travis Beltz shares a lesson in diversity with Lincoln Grade School fifth-grade students.

The Inclusion Team at Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC’s) Robinson, Illinois, refinery annually presents a diversity/inclusion activity for students at area schools, but this year the 16-member group decided to mix it up a bit.

“Along with conducting a project in the first quarter of the year, we also wanted to commemorate Global Diversity Awareness Month in October,” notes Chase Keffer, an advanced HR consultant at the Robinson refinery.

Technical Services Supervisor Sumit Kalra took the lead, meeting with the staff at Robinson’s Washington Elementary School to determine age-specific ways to demonstrate diversity/inclusion to the school’s five first-grade classrooms.

“We came up with three activities, with the first being a read-along of the book The Crayon Box that Talked, by Shane DeRolf,” notes Kalra. “It’s about a box of crayons that didn’t get along. Each thought it was prettier than the others.”

In the course of the book, the crayons notice something remarkable. When one color overlaps another, it creates a whole new color.

“The book’s message is that colors, like people, are all unique, and together they can make something beautiful,” explains Kalra.

The next activity involved solving a floor puzzle, demonstrating the power of teamwork. For the third activity, students drew a picture of their family members, using multicultural crayons to depict various skin tones. Each drawing then became a family flag.

“This activity showed how no two families are exactly alike, but they can all work together for a better community,” Kalra adds.

The success of the project at Washington Elementary led to an invitation for the Inclusion Team to meet with fifth-grade students at nearby Lincoln Grade School.

“We chose a book by Dr. Seuss called The Sneetches,” says Kalra. “It basically shows that no matter how different we think we are, we’re basically the same – and that no ‘Sneetch’ is better than another.”

“Sumit put a tremendous amount of effort into organizing these events, which will impact the students for years to come,” says Keffer. “Our hope is that they will learn to appreciate the differences in others and value their own contributions as well.”

"Growing up in India, I used to wonder why anyone would want to come to my town, which was inclusive but not outwardly diverse. What value could they see in us, and why would we want to know more about them?

Venturing to other places changed my perception and helped me notice the benefits of diversity. I realized that my hometown was diverse, too, but the diversity was not immediately obvious. I learnt that the more diversified you are, the more you learn to appreciate and respect other cultures and people. You get more out of life. 

At MPC, we work as a team. When everybody's ideas are valued and respected, you get better results. It is very important to learn about yourself and to educate others about diversity and inclusion. It's what makes MPC a leader in the community and a good neighbor.
Sumit Kalra, MPC Technical Services Supervisor