One America Community Efforts
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Program: Student Leaders for Racial Understanding, Bethesda, MD
Contact(s): George Manatos, Co-Founder: (301) 229-4984
Purpose: To improve racial understanding among youth in the United States by creating dialogue groups in high schools across the country

Background Program Operations Outcomes


Student Leaders of Racial Understanding (SLRU) began when its co-creators, Tom and George Manatos, conducted a survey examining racial attitudes among high school students in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. This survey was in response to a Washington Post study about adult racial attitudes toward the O.J. Simpson trial verdict. When compared to the Post survey, the high school students indicated that youth were more polarized in their opinions about the verdict. The findings of the survey led the Manatos brothers to establish SLRU in an attempt to improve racial understanding. SLRU believes that students relate better to their peers and that young people can be effective in bridging racial divides.

Program Operations

SLRU is made up of Washington, DC area high school students committed to improving racial relations among their peers. In 1998, SLRU held a conference with over 200 student leaders from 26 Washington, DC area high schools. Local and national celebrities like NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Bobby Mitchell, the first black person to play on the Washington Redskins football team, participated in the conference and gave the students a greater understanding of racial issues. The conference also motivated students to do more in their own communities. Currently SLRU is preparing a mailing to the student leaders at every high school in the country, targeting more than one million student government officers and sports team captains. Information on racial issues, as well as ideas for action, will be included in the mailing. The program for action outlined in the mailing includes ideas for campus dialogues, increasing student involvement and increasing publicity through local media. SLRU wrote an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post outlining its goals. All of these ideas and efforts focus on building understanding among students of different races.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The first Student Leader Conference was publicized by the national media. SLRU has been recognized by Vice President Gore at a White House Press Conference and has been awarded the Lewis/Jennings Teamwork Award. The Lewis/Jennings Award honors youth who cross the barriers of race, religion and ethnic backgrounds to come together for a common purpose and make a difference in the lives of others. It was created to honor the friendship between two men who were of different backgrounds and races, Reggie Lewis and Jon Jennings.

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