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NCCJ fights bias, bigotry, racism

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Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Last summer, nearly 200 Guilford County high-school students attended one of three one-week leadership-development sessions in Blowing Rock that focused on training them to bridge the racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic gaps that divide people.

And on returning to Greensboro, 50 of the students worked as facilitators in 18 community-based summer programs, helping nearly 350 middle-school students understand the need for respect and inclusion in human relationships.

Spearheading those efforts has been the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad, which was an affiliate of New York City-based NCCJ until it was spun off in 2005 as a separate nonprofit.

With an annual budget of $488,000, the local group served over 6,000 people last year and raises money through an annual dinner, annual fundraising appeals, grants and fees, and has been working to increase the share of revenue generated through fees, says Susan Feit, executive director.

The group’s 42nd annual Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award Dinner, held Nov. 6 at the Koury Convention Center, honored Dot Kearns, a retiring member of the Guilford County Board of Education and a former chair of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.

Chaired this year by Steve Mosh, a retired executive of Ecolab, and his wife, Eleanor Schaffner Mosh, a marketing consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, the event grossed over $200,000.

In working to expand NCCJ’s programs and reach more young people and adults, including corporate diversity workshops, Feit says, she also has worked to diversify the
sources of its funding.

Fees for its programs, for example, grew to $147,000, or 30 percent of overall revenue in the fiscal year ended last August 31, from $74,000, or 18 percent of overall
revenue, the previous year.

Anytown, the flagship program that NCCJ launched nationally in 1957 and locally in 1987, added a third session last summer.

Selected because of their diversity, the 192 high-school students who participated last summer spent their Anytown week talking about stereotypes and how to “break down barriers that keep us apart,” says Feit.

The summer program also counts on volunteers, with 69 people ranging from age 17 to older adults contributing their time for a combined estimated value of $54,000.

A key goal is to prepare the students to serve as “peer” leaders who can work with other young people, Feit says.

To help do that, NCCJ last year launched Anytown Process, which aims to build “passionate and compassionate” leaders and keep them engaged in human-relations work throughout the year.

In its most recent fiscal year, NCCJ programs served nearly 2,150 high-school students in Guilford County and just over 1,000 middle-school students, mainly through school-based programs.

Those include an after-school and weekend program that helps students serve as facilitators and organize activities to foster better human relations; human-relations days;
leadership classes; and middle-school programs.

Seven day-long workshops to identify and question stereotypes reached 200 students last year, while students in a leadership class last year at Northwest High School led a unity event for the entire freshman class of roughly 600 students, an event that has led to a second leadership class at the school this year.

And as part of a larger program in character education at middle schools, NCCJ is working with students in those schools to serve as voices human relations.

Working with students and adults, Feit says, NCCJ is “cultivating leaders who are champions of respect and inclusion.”

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