During this special time of the year – as the American Conference on Diversity counts down our final days of a memorable 65th anniversary celebrating respect and understanding – our organization and the people we encounter via diversity-training sessions, educational forums, recognition events, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram), and dozens of other cultural bridge-building initiatives held throughout the year would like to share a few thoughts of gratitude. We’re thankful for …

New Jersey’s growing multicultural environment. Headquartered in one of the most diverse states in the nation, we are grateful that we live in a time and place in which more Garden State gatherings include people from a variety of religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Diversity is the spice of life! This time of year as we dine together, we appreciate sharing this rich heritage through ethnic-inspired foods such as Chorizo Pumpkin Soup, Jamaican Jerk Roast Turkey, Pavochòn, Creamed Saag, and Chinese Candied Sweet Potatoes.

Educators such as Steve McCarthy at Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media, who are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through storytelling. McCarthy and his team of student filmmakers have created numerous diversity-related documentaries, including Ryan’s Heart, about Montclair State student and heart-transplant recipient Ryan Miller. After meeting his donor’s parents, as the following clip shows, Miller discovers that although they’re different races, he and his donor are more alike than unalike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyWW2Opfjvs.

“Organizations such as the American Conference on Diversity and the forums they hold are so important for teachers, students, and all citizens,” says McCarthy. “They send a message that we care about diversity by allowing students like Ryan to present his personal journey of having a heart transplant and providing support for organ donations.”

Enlightened people who recognize that diversity is a win/win. Although we occasionally hear from people who feel our mission to promote respect and understanding will somehow derail their success, we’re grateful that the voices and actions of the people and organizations we recognize and partner with annually speak louder. Because of the drive and determination of enlightened leaders and advocates, our schools, workplaces, and communities are not only more diverse than ever but more inclusive and collaborative! In the words of civil-rights champion and our 2013 Greater Bergen Lifetime Legacy Award recipient Theodora Smiley Lacey: “True change, equality, and diversity will only be sustained if each and every one of us comes together and forges ahead.”

Community leaders who help us implement human-relations solutions. Thanks to our dedicated board of trustees, regional network members, partners in education, volunteers, interns, donors, and staff, the American Conference on Diversity has been carrying out our mission and vision since 1948 and continues to make a positive impact on communities. Each year, students, teachers, and administrators from more than 20 schools throughout the state implement diversity and inclusion action plans on their campuses to decrease bullying, build awareness of the harmful impact of bias attitudes, educate their peers through gender equity forums, and end derogatory language on campus. To date, we have worked with more than 160 schools and 42 percent of the high schools in NJ.

Please support us during our 65th anniversary and beyond through a $65 donation http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/donate. Each dollar raised helps us work with more youth, schools, and communities to practice inclusion. When you give to the American Conference on Diversity, you become part of the solution we can all give thanks to!