“Diversity happens. Inclusion is a choice.”
Shawn Jeffers wants a new generation to understand and act on that concept. As coordinator for JUST Community, a program of BRIDGES for a Just Community
, his organization is bringing that awareness to a younger generation through a new working model this year.
Through education and empowerment, the non-profit organization BRIDGES for a Just Community equips people with awareness, skills and opportunities to develop relationships that will transform this region into a more equitable and just community. JUST Community, a youth program, developed out of the former “Anytown” youth program under the National Conference of Community and Justice (NCCJ), from which BRIDGES evolved.
Since NCCJ began its mission in 1927, its goal of opening healthy dialog between religious groups has broadened over years to include racial understanding and supporting the rights of women and other disadvantaged groups through education and awareness- building.
BRIDGES has used the JUST Community program for students to teach leadership skills necessary to engage their peers in creating more respectful and inclusive school cultures. In years past, the program was over the summer, with area schools sending a small group of students to participate. Students came back excited and willing to implement their learning, but waiting for school to start dampened their initial enthusiasm.
This year’s program is different, based on a successful model already in use through the Great Oaks district. Larger groups of 10-15 students from each school will experience the program in September, during the school year, and two educators from each school will also participate and act as mentors when students return to begin dialog and initiatives. Issues discussed will include race, socio-economic status, gender and sexual orientation.
“And we want different students who can do true community building,” says Jeffers, “not just the student officer or honor roll student” but students who have influence without knowing it and are ready to learn how they really can change the world, school by school.
• Find out
: if your neighborhood school is interested in participating in this program.
: the many programs, events and services BRIDGES offers to further inclusiveness and
acceptance among all of the Cincinnati community.
By Becky Johnson