In 1992, Laurie Bricker and Phyllis Kalmin, both long-time members of Jewish Women International (JWI), saw a need in their community to address the increasing racial tensions and violence among teenagers. As a result, JWI introduced the Prejudice Awareness Summit that year with clear objectives of increasing awareness and understanding, providing opportunities for healthy interaction between races and cultures, and to encourage schools' participation as well.
At the Prejudice Awareness Summit, Jewish Women International brings students together from area schools to initiate a dialogue and create an understanding of the dangers of hatred and prejudice. Student participants are typically eighth graders, brought together for a one-day workshop. The day begins with an interactive ice breaker, which kicks off the dialogue. A keynote speaker follows, and afterwards the students are divided into groups where more intimate discussions on race may take place. At the conclusion of the day, groups create action plans for presenting issues related to prejudice to classmates at their own schools. The students are afforded the chance to speak freely and openly during dialogue sessions and are encouraged to question their own prejudices. The group dialogue eases tensions, and creates a newfound respect for many students. Educators and administrators also learn from the program and from the students.
The Prejudice Awareness Summit has reached over 1,000 students this year in three cities: Houston, Atlanta and Broward County, Fla. In the next year, three more cities will be introduced. Data gathered from students demonstrate that 90% of participants thought that all eighth grade students would benefit from the program. Seventy-nine percent agreed that the program helped them understand their own differences, and 78% stated that participation in the Prejudice Awareness Summit has affected their attitudes towards people different from themselves. The Jewish Women International has published the curriculum to the summit, and is willing to work with other organizations to develop a similar program.