New Brunswick, NJ – On July 13 at 10 p.m., 17 months after fatally shooting African-American high school student Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Although the fallout from this historic legal decision is still unfolding, it’s a “Defining Diversity Moment” and one that the American Conference on Diversity will discuss with New Jersey high school students as we launch the annual Lead for Diversity program next week on our 65th anniversary.

“The Zimmerman verdict has impacted everyone regardless of race or religion, ethnicity or economic status. But it’s had even more significance for our youth because they identify with Trayvon—and what they take away from this event could be life-altering!” says American Conference on Diversity President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley. “That’s the goal of our Lead for Diversity program: to transform the lives of young people by helping them deal with biased attitudes and behavior in our society.”

Lead for Diversity 2013 will kick off on Saturday at the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Dingmans Ferry, PA. It is a yearlong process of challenge, growth, and leadership for sophomores, juniors, and seniors from high schools throughout the state. The experience begins with a six-day summer residential program that allows student delegates to break barriers and develop action plans to reduce prejudice in their own school communities.

With the help of college students and professionals who volunteer to mentor the delegates along their journey of discovering the real value of diversity, the program will include a series of workshops and group activities on socioeconomics, religion, ability status, sexual orientation, race, gender, and other diversity-focused topics. Designed to build social-awareness, leadership, conflict-resolution, and cross-cultural communication skills, the experiential learning activities equip delegates to recognize and advocate for more inclusive communities.

This year’s delegation represents more than 20 different schools in 9 counties and 12 school districts in NJ. They will work with their peers, school advisors, and volunteers to create action plans that will be implemented during the 2013-2014 school year to address challenges unique to their communities. The action plans will engage their high school peers, teachers, and administrators in outcome-driven programs that build more inclusive schools and help reduce bullying, name calling, derogatory language, and bias incidents on their campuses.

Participating institutions for Lead for Diversity 2013 are: Absegami High School; Bayonne High School; Bergen County Academies; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties; Cedar Creek High School; Franklin High School; Freehold Township High School; Gill St. Bernard’s School; Haddonfield Memorial High School; Howell High School; Kearny High School; Lakewood High School; Marlboro High School; Piscataway High School; Princeton Day School; St. Benedict’s Preparatory School; Saint Vincent Academy; Secaucus High School; Spotswood High School; University Academy Charter High School; and William L. Dickinson High School.

Formerly known as Anytown, NJ, Lead for Diversity has been a cornerstone of the American Conference on Diversity Youth Leadership Institute since 1995. Since that time, more than 100 of New Jersey’s high schools have participated and several thousand students have been delegates. In a recent survey of past program participants, nearly 80 percent of former delegates said that attending the program impacted their career choice, leading them to education, social work, nonprofit work, healthcare, government, and law. For more on the impact of Lead for Diversity, download last year’s Lead for Diversity Survey Report and Advisors’ Evaluation Report.

Thanks to the generosity of the following Lead for Diversity Partners in Education and other donors for providing scholarships for 50 percent of the schools to attend: Fidelity Investments, Investors Foundation, New Jersey Natural Gas, NJM Insurance Group, The Provident Bank Foundation, Shor Family Foundation Inc, Victoria Foundation, and Wilf Family Foundation.

Follow the Defining Diversity Moments from this year’s Lead for Diversity via social media by searching the hashtag #LFD13. Visit www.AmericanConferenceOnDiversity.org today and make a difference by donating to support this program and the many others that empower our youth to create a more just and inclusive society.


About the American Conference on Diversity

The programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity, which has been serving schools, organizations, workplaces, and communities in New Jersey since 1948, builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates eight chapters to help us to educate and empower leaders and bring our messages of inclusion and respect to communities throughout New Jersey: Atlantic County Chapter, Bayonne Chapter, Central Jersey Chapter, Essex County Chapter, Greater Bergen Chapter, Hudson County Chapter, Jersey Shore Chapter, and Mercer County Chapter. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.



Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901