By Jack Spady, Contributor
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is teaming up with the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Northwest Magnet High School.
The partnership exists in hopes of helping area high school students learn important lessons not easily taught in classrooms. It provides avenue where students can discuss issues related to their schools and communities.
Founded in 1913, the ADL was formed “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.”
According to their official website,“The Anti-Defamation League fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad through information, education, legislation and advocacy. ADL serves as a resource for government, media, law enforcement, educators, and the public.”
Last summer, the partnership was forged when the UNO Service Learning Academy contacted the ADL asking if they would be interested in a collaboration with political science students at UNO and the NWHS Student Council.
Dr. Patrick McNamara, a visiting professor of political science at UNO, wanted to create a hands-on learning experience for his students and teach them how to have meaningful conversations with their peers on issues facing the youth throughout Omaha.
Since then, the ADL worked with and taught both UNO and NWHS students how to engage in and facilitate talks on race and disparity issues facing not just the Omaha community, but the nation as a whole.
When the program first started, the ADL gave general anti-bias training to both UNO and NWHS students.This training taught students how to detect and discuss the language of bias, such as understanding the dangers of stereotyping and discrimination.
These anti-bias workshops encouraged students to share their experiences with prejudice and to listen to the stories of others with the hope of learning and growing through this experience.
After this, over 100 high school students from around the area attended a student-led dialogue event. At the event, both UNO and NWHS students engaged other students in conversations about issues facing schools and communities in Omaha.
Since the event took place while things were unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, much of the discussion focused on the experiences of the Omaha youth of color and what needs to be done to create safer environments for people of color in Omaha and across the country.
“It’s important to contribute out–side thinking and diversity discussions on sensitive topics like race,” junior Lexie Borron said. “It’s important because society tends to shed a negative light on minority groups, and having a mentality that a certain race is lesser than the other because of that negative light is unfair to those affected. It’s good to hear that a program that discusses these issues and enlightens students about issues like these is being implemented.”
The partnership continues this semester and the ADL, UNO, and NWHS will be hosting another student-led dialogue event in April. All three groups hope this program can make positive changes to the way the Omaha community deals with race and prejudice.