AWOD; Changing the World

Reace Baker, Writer

For years, members of society have been faced with the ugliness of discrimination and forced to endure all the hate and neglect that comes with it. In October of 1913 an organization was founded to help stop discrimination, mainly to try to stop discrimination against Jewish people. But it grew into something bigger.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a nationwide organization. Under the big umbrella of ADL, smaller programs have been developed to do work in places that have been prime hot spots of discrimination.  Public high schools are one of the places targeted.

Schools have played very big parts in the overall work done by ADL because of bullying and other discrimination that happens on campus among adolescents. Sometimes, these activities even continue off campus, and especially now, with social media allowing so much freedom to interact with others.

BFA St. Albans is one school that took action to use the ADL’s A World of Difference (AWOD) program to educate adolescents about issues surrounding discrimination.  AWOD has been going on for 12 years at BFA, and it has made a successful impact on the lives of many people.

“I have had students who had friends who would make stupid jokes or stupid comments, and no longer make those kinds of stupid jokes and stupid comments after seeing their friends or facilitators who are going or are already in AWOD. . .  Ninth graders as well have gone up to those who have made such jokes and or comments and told them to knock it off,” Advisor for A World of Difference, Judith Breitmeyer, said.

Breitmeyer has been a part of the AWOD group since it first began 12 years ago. When it first started up nationally, AWOD was a huge success in edging closer to the end of discrimination.  By expanding throughout the country, it has even reached elementary school in order to work with younger students.

“It’s like a domino effect,” Breitmeyer said.  When AWOD first began at BFA it had only 25 students who were participating in the program. Currently, AWOD has reached a new height, with 67 students who are taking part in AWOD’s goal of ending discrimination.

The phrase ‘teach them while they’re young’ is well known to everybody, and that’s what AWOD does. By going into ninth grade advisories, the upper-class students who participate teach the ninth graders all about the actions that some take and how it can affect them.

The student volunteers who participate in AWOD teach the ninth graders how to handle situations like bullying, if they happen to see it.

To learn new ideas and new ways on how they can teach others about bullying and other discrimination, some of the AWOD students go to a conference that’s held once every year in Boston, MA called Youth Congress.

The impact that AWOD has made over the past 12 years has affected everyone and made the end of discrimination closer.

A safe and inclusive BFA is a goal that many people share.  Those involved with AWOD are taking direct action to help make that goal a reality.