“Best week of my life. A new family and a place to call home”…“I’m seriously crying right now – this experience changed my life”…”Can’t wait to make a difference in the world!”

Sophomore, junior, and senior high-school students from 20 schools across New Jersey who participated in American Conference on Diversity’s Lead for Diversity (LFD) leadership-development program last week took to social media to share their thoughts and connect with peers after a weeklong summer residential retreat. Held at the Poconos Environmental Education Center in Dingmans Ferry, Pa., the retreat kicks off the yearlong LFD initiative designed to promote unity, increase diversity awareness, and ensure respect for people of all races, faiths, ethnicities, sexual identities/expressions, ability status, and ages.

“Our goal is to develop future leaders who will help others to become more accountable for their actions and behaviors,” says ACOD President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley.

During the week, teams of students embarked on a six-day journey into diversity that included large and small group discussions, workshops, and experiential learning activities. On the fifth day the students were joined by their school advisors to create diversity Action Plans that will address challenges specific to their schools and/or school districts. Their Action Plans will be implemented throughout the upcoming school year. The successful implementation of these plans has the potential to reach more than 20,000 New Jersey students, educators, and community members during the upcoming school year.

“Lead for Diversty makes a huge impact. We’ve sponsored a team to send our students  every year for the past 10 years,” said Spotswood High School Principal Tom Calder during action-planning day. “It empowers the youth and tells me and my advisors about things that are going on in the school. Everybody should come here. LFD is about changing behavior.”

Participating institutions for the Lead for Diversity 2014-2015 school year include: Absegami High School (Galloway), Bayonne High School (Bayonne), Bergen Academies (Hackensack), Cedar Creek High School (Egg Harbor City), Christ The King Preparatory High School (Newark), Franklin High School (Somerset), Freehold High School (Freehold Township), Gill St. Bernard’s School (Gladstone), Howell High School (Farmingdale), Lakewood High School (Lakewood Township), Princeton Day School (Princeton), Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School (Newark), Saint Vincent Academy (Newark), Secaucus High School (Secaucus), Spotswood High School (Spotswood), University Academy Charter High School (Jersey City), William Dickinson High School (Jersey City).

Thanks to the generosity of the following 2014 LFD Partners in Education and other donors, a percentage of the total cost for each school team to participate was subsidized: Shor Family Foundation Inc. (Founder); New Jersey Natural Gas and Victoria Foundation (Benefactors); Wilf Family Foundation (Patron); Fidelity Investments, Investors Savings Bank Foundation, NJM Insurance Group, The Provident Bank Foundation (Delegate Sponsors).

Formerly known as Anytown, NJ, LFD has been a cornerstone of the American Conference on Diversity 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 survey of past program participants, nearly 80 percent of the delegates said that attending LFD 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 our Survey Report (http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/LFD-2012-Report-Brochure.pdf) and Advisors’ Evaluation Report (http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ACD-LFD-ExecSum-083010.pdf).

How can you “change the game”? Support the American Conference on Diversity youth leadership development and other educational programs by making a donation. Please visit http://americanconferenceondiversity.org/donate. To find out firsthand how LFD is impacting the lives of NJ youth, join us on social media and follow the hashtag #ChangingtheGame14.

About the American Conference on Diversity

The American Conference on Diversity was founded in 1948 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Today 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 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 Regional Community Networks covering all of New Jersey. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901