Boston, MA, March 11, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute held its 15th Annual New England Youth Congress at the Boston Park Plaza Castle & Hotel. The event brought together more than 1,200 Massachusetts middle and high school students to explore issues of prejudice and their manifestations such as bullying and cyberbullying.
In peer-led workshops,students and educators discussed the impact of these behaviors and identified ways in which students can use positive peer pressure to educate themselves and others on how to effectively respond in their schools and communities.
"Young people encounter prejudice everywhere these days, whether it's online, television or in person," said Lori Gans, co-chair of ADL New England's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. "With all these negative messages bombarding them on a daily basis, it's important that they have positive influences, and they respond best when that positive influence comes from their peers."
The interactive workshops provided an open forum for students and educators to discuss ways in which they deal with prejudice now, and how their responses are impacted by peer pressure. The groups were led by ADL Peer Leaders, with participants representing more than 60 public, private and parochial schools from across Massachusetts.
"We all know from experience that peer pressure is a very powerful motivator for children," said Linda Schwabe, co-chair of ADL New England's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. "Our goal is to help these students identify ways in which they can actively promote respect for individual differences by modeling it themselves and encouraging others to do the same."
ADL Peer Leaders are trained to facilitate positive social change in their schools throughout the year. "Youth Congress provides these peer leaders with the opportunity to share what they have learned about how to respond to prejudice and bias-motivated behaviors," said Phil Fogelman, Director of ADL New England Region's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. "Participants are then able bring this knowledge back to their schools and create a safer, more respectful learning environment."