As I boarded a bus full of unfamiliar faces, my heart dropped. I sat down beside a girl and began to anxiously search around in my bag- so I would seem somewhat occupied. Everyone around me knew each other and I quickly gathered that on this diverse bus, I was the only one who didn’t know someone else. I began to regret this decision as I waved goodbye to my parents through a stained bus window. Fortunately, this feeling of insecurity came to an end as we reached our destination and Anytown-Session 3-2008 began.
Anytown, a leadership camp sponsored by NCCJ, promotes diversity and focuses on achieving a new level of respect for and understanding of people of different backgrounds. This program brings together students from different walks of life that may not otherwise cross paths. I was able to live and interact with a diverse group of students from different schools, ethnic, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic groups as we were given the chance to build a community based on exclusivity, respect and understanding, a community that can serve as a model to the larger communities from which we came. Every night we met as a group around a campfire for reflections on what we encountered druing the day related to racism, sexism, faith, and bigotry. This was a time where individually we could speak our mind, and do it in a nonchalant manner as we verbalized some of our deepest secrets and fears in shadows. I will never forget some of the things said and I will never forget how I felt during and after the campfires. One night in particular I recall all the delegates being really upset over issues of sexism that we had discussed and just holding each other while we cried in one another’s arms. I had fallen in love with 98 people and knew that I would always be able to trust any one of them and depend on them whenever I needed something. Anytown was truly a remarkable experience that I will never forget.
Anytown opened my eyes to a bias world around me, and it made me realize how fortunate I was and how bad some people have it. Life is full of experiences: so take chances, try something out of the ordinary, and step out of the box. School can be a horrible place as students continually get criticized, cliques form and stereotyping becomes an issue. Now, after Anytown, I refuse to ignore discriminatory comments by my peers and teachers as I stand up proudly for what I believe in. I wouldn’t be who I am at this moment in time if I would have gotten off that bus of unfamiliar faces. We must take a lesson from each of our experiences and learn from it. After all, experience is the best instructor.
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