Three local high school students are standing up to hate, after participating in the Anti-Defamation League’s 18th annual Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission.
Torrey Pines High School juniors Sophia Bond, Cole Chodorow and Sabrina Habchi joined more than 100 other teenagers Nov. 15-18 in Washington, D.C. to learn how to apply lessons learned from the Holocaust to their own lives and lead the fight against bigotry and hate at their schools and in their communities.
“It was a really amazing program, honestly life changing,” said Sophia, a 16-year-old Carmel Valley resident. “When I came back, it was like I was looking at my high school through new eyes.”
During the four-day trip, the National Youth Leadership Mission delegates spent time at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where they learned about the persecution of Jews and other minorities during World War II. The students, who came from 132 high schools across the country, also examined contemporary issues of bigotry, extremism and genocide, and engaged in discussions about how they could play a part in fighting prejudice.
Students shared their personal experiences with bullying and discrimination during breakout sessions. They also heard presentations from Holocaust survivors and a Rwandan Genocide survivor.
“We learned to identify biases, bigotry and microaggressions on school campuses and around the community, and how to put a stop to them before they escalate into hate crimes,” explained 16-year-old Cole, who lives in San Marcos.
“I enjoyed meeting all the people that were selected,” he added. “They all had their own stories and their own different opinions on topics. It was just fun to get to know other people outside of the bubble of San Diego.”
With new insight on the issues, Sophia, Cole and Sabrina are now hoping to make an impact on their campus, where they have witnessed hate.
“At my high school, there’s always slurs as jokes that people just toss aside,” Cole said.
“You don’t really understand all the hatred that is present on a high school campus,” Sophia added. “The little things that people say are brushed off. I’m now able to confront those. Saying one little thing can actually make a difference.”
Working together, the three teens are planning a “No Place for Hate” Week March 7-11 at Torrey Pines. During the weeklong campaign, the students hope to spread awareness through informational posters, speakers and other activities.
“I hope that students will think twice about the things that they say, and eventually step up to biases that they hear themselves and not be a bystander anymore,” Cole said.
“I just hope that they gain the knowledge that I did and the awareness that I have now, so they know how to confront different situations and make a difference like me, Cole and Sabrina have,” Sophia added. “I hope that will spread throughout our entire campus and we’ll actually have a place for no hate at our school.”
Founded in 1913, the Anti-Defamation League is an international organization that aims to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defend democratic ideals and protect civil rights for all. The organization’s National Youth Leadership Mission was founded in 1996 and became a national program in 1998 to prepare students as role models against bigotry, hate and prejudice.
For more about the Anti-Defamation League and National Youth Leadership Mission, visit www.adl.org.