How many teens confront the challenge of how their prejudices, faith, gender and ethnicity relate to their personal identity? Issues of individuality and broader topics of immigration, bullying, and conflict resolution are not the usual subjects discussed at sleep-away camp. Unless of course you are a delegate attending MetroTown, a one-week summer leadership program at St. Thomas University, sponsored by MCCJ. MetroTown is based on the model of Camp ANYTOWN, a nationally recognized and award winning diversity, leadership, and social justice program for youth ages 14-18.
Now in its second year, the program hosts fifty students who represent Miami-Dade high schools from Southridge Sr. in Homestead to Dr. Michael Krop Sr. in Aventura. From July 22- 27, the culturally diverse group of delegates will have numerous opportunities to break down barriers, overcome personal challenges, gain new understandings and form friendships among peers who otherwise wouldn’t meet.
During the year, a team of local and national professionals worked to develop creative and challenging activities and reflective exercises that focus on civic engagement, conflict resolution, and leadership. Guidance counselors and teachers who compose the MetroTown staff have undergone special training so that they may deal with issues that surely will arise during late night talks around the proverbial campfire.
There are no dodge ball games or Color Wars on the schedule for these kids. Focusing on a unique theme each day, staff members use interactive games, workshops, and discussions to help delegates explore the thoughts, opinions and experiences we all share on topics like prejudice, discrimination and hate. The curriculum is designed to strengthen self-esteem, and to build awareness and appreciation for the diverse groups living together here in Miami.
Roberta Shevin, MCCJ’s Executive Director explains, “ The goal of MetroTown is to educate, liberate, and empower youth participants to become effective, responsible global leaders and community builders.” This diverse group of high school students comes together to build a community based on respect, understanding, and inclusivity. “By creating a dialog, the delegates are taken on a journey to create a model in which members not just tolerate, but celebrate each other’s differences.”
MetroTown is made possible through the support of the Allegheny Franciscans Ministries, St. Thomas University Center for Peace and Justice, The Knight Foundation and The Children’s Trust. For more information about MetroTown contact Courtney Berrien, MetroTown Director, at 305-755-6096 / Courtney@miamiccj.org.
Rooted in interfaith good will, MCCJ was founded in 1935 as the Miami branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Their mission includes creating safe havens for discussion, training inclusive leaders, and highlighting the benefits of diversity through education, advocacy, dialog and conflict resolution. For information on MCCJ or on MetroTown visit www.miamiccj.org or call 305-755-6096.