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Youth attending anti-bullying & diversity retreat

8/12/2013, 11:19 a.m.

As students prepare for another school year to begin, nearly 70 high schoolers are spending a week exploring how to reduce bullying and prejudice at the Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute. For 20 summers, this program sponsored by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities has prepared student participants to create inclusive school environments. This year’s special anniversary program takes place from Sunday, Aug. 11 – Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 at 4-H Educational Center in Jamestown.

“Through the Connections Institute, students are able to better demonstrate understanding and appreciation for their classmates and neighbors who are from the variety of racial, religious, and ethnic groups that make up Virginia,” says Jonathan Zur, President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. “This program meets a significant need across our Commonwealth, particularly as schools make a renewed effort to reduce bullying and develop safe and supportive learning environments.”

Over 1,750 students have participated in the Connections Institute over its twenty years, sharing what they learned with tens of thousands of their classmates and peers. Student participants unanimously agree that the program provides the skills to help them to work for causes and issues they find important. Additionally, over 93% of past participants report that they have the tools needed to confront racist, sexist, religiously biased, and homophobic comments and actions. One student commented, “I felt that this was a great experience for me. It was exactly what I needed to turn my life around. I realize the wrongs that are committed to people I know, and in order to help change this society, I must first change myself.”

Thirteen Virginia high schools and one youth organization sent delegations of students to the 2013 Connections Institute. Students attending are from: Atlee High School (Hanover County), Bayside High School (Virginia Beach), Bethel High School (Hampton), Collegiate School (Henrico County), Cox High School (Virginia Beach), Landstown High School (Virginia Beach), Norfolk Academy (Norfolk), Princess Anne High School (Virginia Beach), ROSMY (Richmond), St. Catherine’s School (Richmond), St. Christopher’s School (Richmond), St. Gertrude School (Richmond), Steward School (Henrico County), and Tallwood High School (Virginia Beach). Funding support for the program is generously provided by the R.E.B. Foundation.