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ANYTOWN begins with A 5-day, 4-night residential conference for teens that gives them a framework for having hard conversations with people who don’t look like them and an understanding of why that’s important.

Students experience interactive workshops that teach and demonstrate the concept of “-isms” or systems of advantage that favor one group of individuals over another and the ways these systems create and reinforce discrimination.

Throughout the week, ANYTOWN participants have the opportunity to further explore and process the knowledge they are gaining in these workshops in dialogue groups, which they meet with several times during their ANYTOWN experience. In addition to exploring knowledge gained through workshops, dialogue groups also engage students in the exploration of their own identity and how their social identity impacts the ways that they interact with their family, friends and broader community. Dialogue groups allow students to build emotional intelligence and practice empathy for others by offering the opportunity to listen and share with peers in a diverse, inclusive and confidential environment.

ANYTOWN also creates diverse and inclusive dorm communities for students, where they not only sleep, but also interact in intentional ways with their “dorm families,” including reflecting on their day, what they learned about themselves and others and what challenges are arising for them as we present and discuss the many layers of discrimination.

Finally, through structured free time during the ANYTOWN week, or what we call “community time,” students have the chance to further experience cross-cultural interactions with new friends and ANYTOWN staff. The ANYTOWN week concludes with a leadership workshop that offers teens the opportunity to create an action plan for how they will work to interrupt stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination in their schools and communities.

Pinellas County high school students receive ½ social studies credit for completion of the ANYTOWN residential programs.

During the school year, Community Tampa Bay staff and volunteers host Be Intentional Institutes, which are continuing education sessions for ANYTOWN residential graduates. These institutes are organized around opportunities to SOCIALize with peers, build new SKILLS and receive SERVICE hours. Be Intentional Institutes occur quarterly, and while each session has a different focus, all assist teens in staying well-versed in strategies for promoting dialogue and cross-cultural interactions and also help them stay connected to their peers and mentors. Through Be Intentional Institutes, teens also share with one another how they have put their ANYTOWN skills into action in their own communities and gain both inspiration and support from one another to continue growing as inclusive leaders.

ANYTOWN has received national recognition as a “Best Practice” by the US Department of Education. It has also been recommended as one of the best programs to prevent juvenile delinquency by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. In March 2014, ANYTOWN was highlighted as an effective diversity education program in a feature in The Atlantic. ANYTOWN is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, many of whom themselves graduated from the program. In the summer of 2015, we served 105 diverse students, ages 14 – 18, from Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. We have graduated over 5,500 delegates since 1991.

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