Multicultural and Diversity Guide for Students

The Importance of Attending an Inclusive School

Empirical studies have shown that socializing and interacting with those of a different race has a positive personal and academic influence on students. Benefits include improve academic development, increased cultural awareness, satisfaction with the college experience and desire to promote racial acceptance. Of course, diversity doesn’t just have to refer to different races, but other groups, lifestyles and cultures as well.

The State of Diversity on College Campuses: a Snapshot

20% of Hispanic adults have a postsecondary degree, compared with 36% of all adults.

33% of LGBTQ students have “seriously considered” leaving college due to issues surrounding their sexual orientation, including harassment.

In 2013, 77% of adults who came from families in the top 25% in income got a bachelor’s degree by the time they turned 24. However, only 9% earned their bachelor’s degree by the time they turned 24 if they were from the “lowest income bracket.”

Sources: Columbia Social Work Review, Excelencia in Education, Wall Street Journal

What is Multicultural and Diverse? What is “Inclusive?”

“Multicultural” is defined as relating to or made up of several cultural or ethnic groups within a society. “Diverse” means to show a great deal of variety. Being poised to embrace that variety, various cultures, different beliefs and attitudes, and so much more is a sign of a truly “inclusive” school.

On every college campus, there is someone who fits the definition of diverse or multicultural. From women to minorities, from those who identify as gay or lesbian to those who are disabled, the differences in our culture is what makes us so unique and interesting. An inclusive school is a place that embraces all and finds ways to celebrate differences in the classroom, on the campus, and in the greater community.

Here are just a few of the populations that might benefit from the welcoming atmosphere of an inclusive college or university.









Finding the Best Fit: Searching for an Inclusive and Diverse School

Determining which colleges and universities are truly inclusive can be tough. Every school wants to project an air of openness, and it can be very easy to talk the talk. Which colleges actually walk the walk? Search for these key points to help narrow down the schools that are truly inclusive and open to everyone.

  • A Dedicated Diversity Office Most schools have an “Office of Multicultural Affairs” or something similar, so if a school does not have this, that’s a bad sign. But assuming the school has one, check to see what it’s done lately to create an inclusive and diverse academic experience.
  • Clubs and Associations Look into what kind of multicultural clubs, unions, associations or other extracurricular activities are present on campus and advocate diversity. Then see how active they are. The more multicultural organizations present on campus, the better.
  • The Percentages Research the percentage of the student body that can be considered a minority group. You can also go to the United States Department of Education’s website and see if the school qualifies as a Minority Serving Institution. This designation goes to schools who meet certain diversity requirements, such as number of minority students or those receiving federal financial aid.
  • Calendar of Events When visiting the school’s student center or website, check the upcoming calendar of events. How many events are related to diversity, culture or inclusion? Most schools have at least a token celebration, such as a day to recognize a certain heritage; schools that host celebrations like this on a weekly basis are probably more serious about inclusion.
  • Scholarship Status When researching what financial aid options are available, take a look to see what forms of financial aid the school offers to minority or low-income students. One way to do this is to research (or ask) how many students receive Pell Grants, as these are only given to students of financial need.
  • The Degree Programs One of the factors to consider when choosing a school is the degree programs it offers. Does the school have majors or minors that reflect a push for inclusion and diversity? Does it have a minor for gender equality studies? Or Chicano/Latino Arts and Humanities?
  • Study Abroad Opportunities Most schools have a study abroad program, but schools that are more serious about diversity and promoting different ideas and cultures may have a wider selection of study abroad opportunities. A school with a dozen possibilities might be more inclusive than the school with only two or three options.
  • Assistance Activities Does the college offer activities that help underprivileged, disadvantaged or other marginalized groups? This might include a tutoring program for underprivileged students or educational programs to expose the wider community to different ideas or cultures.
  • School Requirements Some schools strongly recommend students attend certain activities, programs or events that promote diversity and acceptance. While this requirement may not change the world, it does reflect the school’s philosophy about inclusion.
  • Diverse Faculty A diverse teaching staff can be a good reflection of how serious a school is about offering a well-rounded experience. The more diverse the faculty, the more likely the school is going to embrace those who are different.

Multicultural & Diverse High School Students: Preparing Ahead

What happens when someone winds up in a school where they feel they don’t belong, or where they might have a tough time fitting in? Often they choose to leave. That is reflected by the college freshman dropout rates. Here are a few facts about those rates and other key points:

Only 59% of students who begin a 4 year college degree will complete it within 6 years.

The college graduation rate for black students is 42 percent, but it’s slowly creeping upward.

60% of college dropouts had no financial help from parents to pay for tuition.

For individuals born in the 1980s, 80% of the wealthiest went to college by age 19 and 68% graduated by age 25. However, only 29% of the poorest individuals went to college and only 32% of those students finished by age 25.

Even though much of the burden is on the school to provide an inclusive environment, students can do a great deal to prepare for the transition from their high school to the college world. The below sections discuss three ways minority students can prepare for college.

  • Academically
    Any high school student – whether in a minority or not – can benefit from brushing up on the basic academic concepts prior to college. Free tutoring sessions may be available to some, but self-study can also help, as well as requesting additional help from teachers. When choosing classes, students can go with the more challenging ones, such as Honors, International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP), which are more rigorous and cover subjects likely to be needed in college. The student may be able to get college credit for those classes, which can mean a lighter academic course load while in college and/or saving money on tuition.
  • Economically
    To better succeed in college, students should reduce financial stress wherever possible. One way to do this is to obtain college credit while in high school. Another option is to apply to as many scholarships or grants as possible. Many scholarships or grants (which don’t have to be repaid) are offered to students because they are in a racial, cultural, religious, sexual or other minority. By applying for these scholarships and grants before entering college, minority students can potentially save a great deal of money, and be more secure economically as they begin their higher education journey.
  • Socially
    College is a stressful time for all students. For marginalized students, stress in college can be worse due to increased challenges, especially social ones. To help alleviate this, students can take steps to establish relationships with other students, faculty and staff before enrolling in a given school. Either on their own time, doing an official visit or through the Internet, minority students can connect with other incoming students and school personnel (minority or not) before starting their first class. These relationships can also provide support should discrimination or other unwelcoming events occur.

From the Experts

Our diversity experts discuss the past, present and future of diversity on college campuses.


  • With so many educational opportunities out there, how can a student spot a truly inclusive school?

    Dr. Afridi

    An inclusive school is seen by its core mission and values. These are reflected in the curriculum, outreach to diverse groups and campus events. One can measure the diversity of a school by what type of centers it runs, the help it offers to students who are bilingual or socio economically disenfranchised. Manhattan College has a Lasallian value system which is inherently active in all activities and events of campus. We believe in excellence in teaching, respect for human dignity, reflection on faith and its relation to reason, an emphasis on ethical conduct, and commitment to social justice.

    Jennifer Michael

    Read and understand the colleges nondiscrimination policy and look for other policies online; housing policies that include gender blind housing, transgender housing policies and ways to classify yourself outside the binary. Look at the activities and leadership pages of the website for clubs that represent a diverse range of interests and lifestyles. Commonly those will advised by campus faculty and staff that work to build an inclusive campus environment. Most importantly, look at the college’s mission and goals. Often the mission and goals of an institution can be the first look at what the institution values and how that will be lived out during you time there.

    The best way to know is to ask students themselves. As a campus administrator I know and appreciate the value of student voice in our efforts to recruit students and want all new students to know the truth about Wells and what we stand for. When you visit campus and have a chance to talk with Admission tour guides, ask really good questions, they are truly your best resource.

    Kevin McDonough

    Colleges and universities strive for inclusion and diversity, and this means ethnic, racial, economic and geographical diversity. But not all schools are as successful in accomplishing that goal. Looking at a school’s recent demographics and its historical make-up of the student body, faculty and staff is one way gauge whether a school is truly an inclusive institution. Researching a school online can yield useful information that you might not obtain directly from the institution. However, there is no substitute for visiting a school to get a direct feel for the campus environment. Reading about a school will never be as helpful as talking with current students to see if there is a true sense of inclusion and institutional support for diversity.


  • What can students do to help further inclusiveness at their chosen school?

    Dr. Afridi

    Education is the primary motivation and key to diversity. Students can take on issues that are not their own but create events, awareness and education for their peers. For example, we have a Syria clothing drive that students have spearheaded and are motivating others about displaced people.

    Jennifer Michael

    Most importantly is an understanding that when you come to college all people come from varying back grounds and beliefs. You need to be understanding and aware of how each student is different and exploring their own identities as well. You should be active, engage in the community and use your voice to make a difference. Join a club or start one that fosters inclusion and respect for difference. Welcome new members and help validate the feelings of those on the fringe. Find your allies in the faculty and staff, talk to your Dean and seek opportunities to create experiences that shine light on an area that you can work towards making more inclusive.

    Kevin McDonough

    Make sure you socialize and interact in and outside of the classroom with other students from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This contributes to the academic and personal development of both students while promoting mutual understanding and awareness. When possible, help create opportunities for students from different groups to interact. This can be as simple as asking someone in your class or in your residence hall with a different background than you to have lunch.


  • Many schools are striving to become more diverse — what are some of the challenges to that goal, and how might they be overcome?

    Dr. Afridi

    Diversity is connected to how warm the administration and faculty is—how well do you interact with people of all color and faith? Manhattan College also has a Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith education Center that is focused on dispelling myths about religion and race where students are very active. This helps students interact with other diverse students and become aware.

    Jennifer Michael

    First we need to recognize that diversity comes in all different ways; socio-economic, race, religion, sexuality, gender and many more. As educators we always want our environments to expose all students to varying perspectives and ideas.

    To diversify a campus in specific ways college and university administrators need to be aware of the resources that group may need on your campus and be ready to put money towards them. Are faculty development programs offered to keep the in class educators in line with the colleges mission and goals? Do faculty use texts from varying perspectives and voice? Are staffed trained to given access to professional development on new topics and trends in higher education as it relates to diverse populations?

    With increasing campus diversity comes an increased need to hiring folks in the faculty and staff that represent diverse perspectives as well. We want our students to be able to see themselves in us so institutions need to work hard to incorporate diverse perspectives in their hiring and recruitment work.

    Kevin McDonough

    According to the American Council on Education, numerous studies have shown that everyone gets a better education in a diverse environment. However, creating a truly diverse student body is a constant challenge. Institutions located in areas with diverse populations will have an easier time because diversity occurs more naturally. For institutions located in States and areas with a more homogenous population, it takes hard work by the administration and the admissions department to attract students from different backgrounds. As we are seeing at the University of Missouri this week, just having racial diversity is not the same as inclusion. Clearly, some students there do not believe the administration has done enough to fight discrimination and to support the inclusion of the minority student population into the University community. Overcoming such challenges requires strong institutional leadership and a developing a strong institutional awareness that having students, faculty and staff with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds is an asset.


Student Involvement

Being heavily involved in diversity programs on campus has more than just the obvious benefits of making students feel more included and accepted – those who do join supportive groups can make new friends, learn about other cultures and beliefs, get a boost in professional networking, have access to additional academic and financial resources, and potentially make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Students can begin by researching what’s available at the school and in the larger community, how to join certain groups and organizations, and what will be required of regular participation. Keep in mind that most groups are open to anyone – for instance, you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to join the LGBT organization and offer your support to those who need it.

These multicultural and diversity programs and organizations can help students break out of their comfort zone and explore meaningful possibilities.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

This is a national civil rights organization which exists to fight racial discrimination. The Youth & College Division consists of college chapters where students can organize to advance the NAACP’s mission. Anyone who is under 25 and is currently enrolled at a college or student is eligible to join.

  • Black Student Alliance (BSA) (search for your local chapter web link)
    This student organization exists to promote African-American heritage, advocate on behalf of African-American students at the school and increase the presence of African-Americans at the school and in the community.

Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)

The GSA organizations found on campus is made up of all students, in addition to those identifying as LGBTQ, with the goal of creating acceptance and positive attitudes among the community.

  • International Student Association (ISA) (search for your local chapter web link)
    This student organization represents the international students currently attending a given school. The ISA hosts many events open to all students with the goal of creating a better awareness of cultural diversity.
  • Women in Physics (check your school for an affiliate organization)
    Women have been traditionally underrepresented in science fields, and physics is no exception. This organization hosts special physics-themed events to get women excited about the field.
  • Women’s Student Association (search for your local chapter web link)This organization has the broad goal of empowering women to be the world’s next group of leaders. Open to men as well, the Women’s Student Association also aims to promote women’s rights, both locally and around the world.
  • Thai Society (search for your local chapter web link) The Thai Society’s goal is to educate and inform others about the culture, history and experience from Thailand. This is just one example of the numerous societies available on college campuses that focus on one particular area of the world and bring valuable knowledge to the student body.
  • United World Club (UWC) (search for your local chapter web link) The UWC brings international awareness and education to college campuses. Additionally, the UWC fosters understanding among different nations through the hosting of many cultural and social events and conferences.
  • Women’s Leadership Project (search for your local chapter web link) This organization empowers women to be leaders by offering educational and informative activities that help develop and promote female leadership. It also provides support and encouragement for women looking to make a difference.

Disability Alliance

Made up of those who are disabled and their supporters, the Disability Alliance aims to provide a voice for the disabled as well as promote change that benefits those who are handicapped. This organization works toward everything from getting accommodations set up on campus to making society more accepting of the disabled and much more.

  • Branching Out: Community Involvement
    The college campus is an important part of the larger community around it. In fact, many colleges and universities have seen whole cities grow up around them to meet the needs of the student population, and those in the larger community might take their cues on how to act from the way the college as a whole approaches various situations. Getting involved with the world beyond the college campus can help spread diversity and inclusiveness, as well as a large measure of acceptance.

Here are some ways that students might be able to move out into the large community and spread the good word about diversity.

Bonner Leaders Program

Developed by the Bonner Foundation, this multi-year program selects students who are enthusiastic about working with non-profit organizations during the school year. Students will provide about seven community service hours per week in the areas of social justice, diversity, community building, civic engagement, international perspective and spiritual exploration.

  • America Reads Challenge (check your school for an affiliate organization)
    This national campaign encourages all Americans, including college students, to help children learn to read. The focus is particularly on English Language learners and students with disabilities. Colleges have partnerships with elementary schools and youth centers where students can participate in after school programs to help tutor students.
  • The Boltwood Project (check your school for an affiliate organization)
    This civil engagement program at University of Massachusetts Amherst is a good example of projects that might be available at campuses across the nation. Over 100 students work with The Boltwood Project on weekly activities held at 14 local organizations which serve those with disabilities.
  • Poverty Awareness Marathon (check your school for an affiliate organization)
    This annual marathon is hosted by Eastern Connecticut University’s Center for Community Engagement, which aims to encourage long-term volunteering. The marathon always brings in numerous food items for a local soup kitchen.

Student Multicultural and Diversity Resources

Finding the right resources can help students feel more at home on their college campuses; for those who want to be a welcoming force, using those resources can help them spread inclusiveness. The resources below, broken down into various groups, is a great place to begin.

Scholarships for Diverse & Multicultural Students

Colleges and universities recognize that students who are marginalized – for whatever reason – might need an added boost in the form of scholarships, grants and the like. The following scholarship opportunities are a great starting point for those who are looking for help for college.

  • LGBTQ

    Gamma Mu Foundation Scholarships

    Offered by Gamma Mu

    Deadline is March 31 of each year

    Awards between $1,000 and $2,500

    Designed for gay men under the age of 35

    Apply online only at Gamma Mu

    Live Out Loud Educational Scholarship

    Offered by Live Out Loud

    Deadline: Late Spring

    Awards $5,000 to five students

    Designed for students in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut with financial need

    Apply online at Live Out Loud

    PFLAG Scholarships

    Offered by the Parents, Families, Friends and Allies of Lesbians and Gays

    Deadline: Late Spring

    Award is between $1,000 and $5,000 each

    Designed for gay or lesbian students

    Apply online at PFLAG

    Point Foundation Scholarships

    Offered by Point Foundation

    Application period is from November through January

    Award includes not only monetary funds, but mentoring and events as well

    Designed for LGBTQ students

    Apply online at Point Foundation

    Traub-Dicker Rainbow Scholarship

    Offered by the Stonewall Foundation

    Application period is early spring

    Awards $1,500 to $3,000

    Designed for LGBTQ women

    Apply online at Stonewall Foundation

  • Minority

    APIASF General Scholarship Program

    Offered by the APIASF

    Deadline: January 8

    Award between $2,500 and $15,000

    Students must be of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity

    Apply at the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund

    Coca-Cola Foundation Scholarship

    Offered by the Coca-Cola Foundation

    Deadline: January 8

    Award of $2,500

    Students must be Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity, as well as the first in their family to enroll in college

    Apply at the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund

    Full Circle Scholarship Program

    Offered by American Indian College Fund

    Applications accepted January through May

    Awards between $1,000 and $75,000

    Designed for those enrolled in a tribal college

    Apply online at American Indian College Fund

    Gates Millennium Scholars Program

    Offered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    Deadline: January 13

    Award Varies

    Designed for students who identify as Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander, Native American, Alaskan Native, or African American

    Apply at the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund

    HSF General College Scholarships

    Offered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

    Deadline: March 30

    Awards between $500 and $5,000

    Designed for Hispanic students and based on merit

    Apply at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

  • Disabled

    AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship

    Offered by the American Association on Health and Disability

    Deadline: November 15

    Awards up to $1,000

    Designed for full-time students who are disabled

    Apply via email or mail at AAHD

    ChairScholars Foundation Scholarship

    Offered by the ChairScholars Foundation

    Deadline varies

    Awards up to $30,000

    For students who have a physical disability and intend to enroll in either Edinboro University or the University of Tampa

    Apply through either Edinboro University or the University of Tampa

    disABLEDperson.com Scholarship Competition

    Offered by DisabledPerson.com

    Deadline: March 15

    Awards $1,000

    Designed for those who are disabled in some way (physical or otherwise) and is based on an essay

    Apply at DisABLEDperson.com

    Horatio Alger National Scholarship

    Offered by the Horatio Alger Association

    Deadline: October 25

    Awards $22,000

    Designed for those who have overcome adversity and show critical financial need

    Apply at the Horatio Alger Association

    Incight Scholarship

    Offered by Incight

    Deadline: April 1

    Awards between $500 and $1,500

    Designed for residents of California, Oregon or Washington who have a documented disability

    Apply online at Incight.org

  • Vision Impaired

    Assistive Technology Fund

    Offered by the Association of Blind Citizens

    Deadline: June 30 or December 31

    Awards 50% of the cost of adaptive technology

    Applicants must be legally blind and have significant need for assistive technology

    Apply via email only at ABC

    CRSB Scholarships

    Offered by Christian Record Services for the Blind

    Deadline April 1

    Award varies

    Must be legally blind and a full-time undergraduate student

    Apply via regular mail only; print application at CRSB

    Lighthouse Guild Scholarship Program

    Offered by the Lighthouse Guild

    Deadline: March 31

    Awards up to $10,000

    Applicants must be legally blind and attending an accredited college

    Apply online at the Lighthouse Guild

    National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program

    Offered by the NFB

    Deadline: March 31

    Awards between $3,000 and $12,000

    Must be legally blind, a full time student and a participant in the NFB convention

    Apply online at the NFB

    Paul and Ellen Rukes Scholarship

    Offered by the American Federation for the Blind

    Deadline: May 31

    Awards $2,000 each to two applicants

    Must be legally blind and a full-time student in engineering or computer, physical or life sciences

    Apply via regular mail to the AFB

  • Hearing Impaired

    AG Bell College Scholarship Program

    Offered by Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center

    Mid-March

    Awards range from $1,000 to $10,000

    Numerous hearing-related requirements; must also be a full-time student

    Apply via regular mail to AG Bell Scholarship Program

    Anders Tjellström Scholarship

    Offered by Cochlear

    Deadline: October 1

    Awards $2,000 per year for up to four years

    Available only to students who have a Baha device

    Apply via regular mail at Cochlear Americas

    Graduate Fellowship Fund

    Offered by Galladuet University Alumni Association

    Deadline: April 20

    Award varies

    Available to deaf or hard of hearing students who are accepted to graduate school

    Apply via regular mail at the GFF Committee

    Graeme Clark Scholarship

    Offered by Cochlear

    Deadline: October 1

    Awards $2,000 per year for up to four years

    Available only to students who have a Nucleus Cochlear Implant

    Apply via regular mail at Cochlear Americas

    Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf

    Offered by Sertoma

    Deadline: May 1

    Awards of $1,000 to chosen applicants

    Available to those with hearing loss who are pursuing a full-time bachelor’s program

    Apply via regular mail at Sertoma Headquarters

  • International

    Fulbright Foreign Student Program

    Offered by U.S. Department of State

    Awards vary depending upon funds

    Awarded to those who are not U.S. citizens; academic requirements apply

    Application location varies depending upon the country of origin

    Rolling applications accepted

    International Fellowships

    Offered by the American Association of University Women

    Deadline: December 1

    Awards between $18,000 and $30,000

    Awarded to women in full-time graduate study who are not U.S. citizens

    Apply online at AAUW

    International Scholarship Programme

    Offered by the Aga Khan Foundation

    Spring deadline

    Award varies depending upon college; 50% is scholarship, 50% loan

    Available to those in developing countries who intend to study in France, Portugal, the U.S., Canada, or the U.K.

    Apply via forms collected at the local AKF offices

    Tuition Promise Scholarship

    Offered by Berea College

    Deadline: Same as college admissions

    Awards up to $25,000 per year, or $100,000 over the span of four years, to cover all tuition costs

    Available to international students who choose to attend Berea College

    Apply via online or regular mail at Berea College

    The NextGen Scholarship Fund

    Offered by PERK Consulting

    Deadline: May 29

    Awards $1,000

    Awarded to international students or non-citizens who live or plan to study in D.C., Maryland or Virginia

    Apply online at PERK Consulting

  • Women

    Code Like a Girl Scholarship

    Offered by Influenster

    Deadline: November 1

    Awards $1,000 to five applicants

    Awarded to women who are full-time college students

    Apply online at Influenster

    Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

    Offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Deadline: December 10

    Awards up to $42,000 per student

    Awarded to women who intend to pursue a degree in oceanography, maritime archaeology or marine biology

    Apply online through NOAA

    Wines Opportunity for Success Scholarship

    Offered by College Success Foundation

    Deadline varies

    Awards $20,000 in $5,000 increments over four years

    Applicant must be female and have financial need

    Apply online at College Success Foundation

    Medical Education Scholarships

    Offered by the American Medical Women’s Association

    Deadline varies by cycle

    Awards $500 to four applicants

    Applicant must hold AMWA membership and must be enrolled in medical school

    Apply via email at AMWA

    Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

    Offered by WISP

    Rolling deadline

    Award varies

    Awarded to a woman who is a survivor of domestic abuse

    Apply online at WISP

  • Low Income

    College Match Scholarship

    Offered by Quest Bridge

    Deadline varies

    Awards up to $200,000 per year, spread out over four years

    Student must attend a partner college and have significant financial need

    Apply online through Quest Bridge

    College Scholarship Program

    Offered by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

    Deadline varies

    Awards up to $40,000 per year, depending upon need

    Applicant must meet academic requirements and have significant financial need

    Apply through the JKC online portal

    Education Support Award

    Offered by the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation

    Deadline varies

    Awards up to $5,000

    Applicant must be a mother with minor children and financial need

    Apply online through the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation

    Toyota/TELACU Scholarship

    Offered by Toyota and the TELACU Education Foundation

    Deadline varies

    Awards up to $5,000

    Applicants must be in their third or fourth year of college, pursuing a degree in STEM or business

    Apply online at TELACU

    Walmart Associate Scholarship

    Offered by Walmart

    Deadline varies

    Awards between $500 and $1,500

    Applicants must be a Walmart employee and have financial need

    Apply online through Walmart


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