Original Article Published On The Jewish Ledger
WOODBRIDGE – The Dream Team came to the Jewish Community Center last week. But this team didn’t come to show off their athletic skills; they came for a graduation of sorts.
This Dream Team of teen leaders from 22 Southern Connecticut Conference high schools have spent the year participating in the Diversity Dream Teams: Differences That Make The Difference program. Participants in this program of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) “A World of Difference” Institute met regularly throughout the school year to increase awareness and understanding about diversity and to complete a “diversity action plan” for each member school.
“You have redrawn the color lines, you have stood up!” David W. Maloney, project administrator, ADL trainer, and assistant principal at Branford High School told the group.
Following an “Action Planning Exercise” lead by Debbie Colucci of the ADL’s A World of Difference Institute, the students assembled by school to reflect on the year and to share their action plans.
Students at Wilbur Cross High School listed on their chart such accomplishments as “stop using homophobic terms” and “courage to stick out for other people.”
The East Haven High students wrote on their poster under “What we have learned:” “Tolerance is a key factor in building healthy relationships” and “Working with other diverse groups helped us to overcome prejudices and discrimination.”
Students from Guilford High School engaged in an intense discussion on use of the terms “gay” and “fag” and about racial jokes.
“It’s not okay to say ‘that’s so gay,” one student chimed in. Another student recounted an incident when an African American student, during an argument with another student was told, “It is a privilege for you to even be here!”
In a nod to what they have learned over the past year, the Guilford students listed “Unity Dinner,” “Unity Week” and “Students Speak Up/Out” in their list of activities for the academic year.
“You take a diverse group and bring them together, and they reach a common platform of understanding—it’s amazing,” Maloney explained, watching the groups of students participate in the day’s activities.
Students attending the conference explained the appeal of the Dream Team program.
“It’s great to come together with kids from other schools and hear their different perspectives,” said Mike L’Altrella, a senior at Shelton High School, who notes, “Other than through sports, we don’t have many ways to come together with students from other schools.”
“It’s a great learning experience and a chance to meet people in our own school and out,” added Duy Pham, a junior at Branford High School.
“It was a crash course in diversity,” said Andre Gabriel, a sophomore at Shelton. “You get to meet people from different economic and racial groups. You don’t realize there are multiple ways to solve problems.”
SCC Commissioner Al Carbone praised the group for their participation and remarked, “The key is to bring what you’ve learned back to your schools.”