ADL leaders guide peers in courageous conversations


Riya Mahanta

ADL’s “A World of Difference” program trains student leaders to create positive change in their communities. They are currently holding workshops in sophomore classes.

Luke Utzschneider, Staff Writer

After three full days of training, peer leaders in the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “A World of Difference” program are holding workshops in sophomore classes to teach students about topics such as inclusion, bias and how to have courageous conversations.

Over 20 Algonquin students who applied for the program were selected and trained by ADL officials to prepare them to teach their fellow students. The ADL program has been implemented at Melican and Trottier Middle School as well. The rising freshmen will be integrated into the high school’s program next year.

According to junior Mina Kasum, an ADL student leader, the two previous workshops they have held went smoothly. The peer leaders share information and help facilitate conversations during the workshops.

“My favorite part is presenting to the sophomores because I like hearing what they have to say,” Kasum said. “It’s interesting to hear different ideas and connections others make while we’re presenting.”

Moving forward, ADL student leaders such as sophomore Landen Jorgensen are making the necessary adjustments so that the next workshop will be even more successful.

“What we are working on right now is time,” Jorgensen said. “Classes have different periods, so we have to design something that takes just around 40 to 50 minutes.”

According to Jorgensen, as the workshops continue, they will delve deeper into more serious topics. The next workshop with the sophomore class on May 23 will focus on racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice. 

“They are very nuanced topics, ” Kasum said. “There’s a lot that can be said, and a lot that can’t, so you have to pick the right words, which is hard to do sometimes.”

ADL advisers Selvi Oyola and Suzanne Stimson feel lucky to have landed in their positions and are grateful the program has received so much support from other staff members in the school.

“We had many teachers coming up to us from all different departments saying, ‘This is wonderful, how can we help, we love this,’ so we have had a lot of support,” Stimson said.

The advisers believe it is important for the program to be student-led because exploring these issues and learning about them from peers who can better relate to each other allows for more valuable conversations.

“It’s empowerment through students, by students, for students,” Oyola said. “They care about the work and want to empower everyone to be able to have these difficult conversations and really to make sure everyone feels included.”

The program’s goals align heavily with the school’s core values and goals.

“For the last couple of years we have been really prioritizing the goal of making sure our school experience represents the diversity of the experiences of our whole world, which has not always been the case,” Principal Sean Bevan said.

The advisers feel that the students have done an incredible job in learning about these topics and sharing their knowledge with their peers. 

“They are very caring and know how to carry our message forward with grace and patience,” Oyola said. “Working with them and seeing them grow has been the best part.”