Dignity Project

A Fellowship Program for High School Students

Sponsors

The Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation

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Overview

This fellowship program is designed to train outstanding ​high school sophomores, juniors and seniors—15-18 fellows total annually—from Greater Boston to serve as interreligious and cross-cultural leaders, with the capacity to engage the diversity of our city (and broader society) with thoughtfulness, skill, and care. In constructing this intentionally diverse group, we will recruit a passionate cohort of young people from different spiritual and ethical backgrounds, including those who identify as “religious” and “secular.” We will also pay careful attention to other axes of difference, including race, class, and gender. By the same design, Mentors are selected from local graduate theological programs and emerging faith leaders to model, companion, teach, lead, and empower. In developing this initiative, we are working collaboratively with leaders and educators from various houses of worship, schools, and civic organizations throughout the city. 

The ethical/spiritual foundation for the project is the ancient and enduring notion that every human being is of inestimable worth, and that a society thrives when people learn to honor each other’s similarities ​and​ differences. In this moment of increased polarization and resurgent intolerance, we need to help young people develop the ability and sensibility to find common ground when possible, and to engage in ​dignified d​iscourse and debate when necessary. This is particularly important for our target audience, as these teens move closer to adulthood, preparing to leave home for college, university, and work life. 

The overarching goal of the initiative is to cultivate a network of thoughtful and skilled young leaders able to build bridges of understanding and cooperation, and to stand up to bigotry and hate. To accomplish this, the Dignity Project aims to give voice and agency to Youth Fellows. It aims to recognize their intelligence and capacity, include them in community projects, and help them to realize their perspective is valued and they can be leaders and bridge builders in this world. The hands-on community building that takes place in the Dignity project moves learning out of the realm of the theoretical as Fellows practice hard skills together like active listening, facilitation, conflict resolution, and program design. In partnering together, Mentors and Fellows are building confidence and trust as they design solutions to address community needs.

Aliza Kopans, High School Senior 2020-2021 Fellow

I just want to express my gratitude. It’s really been a transformative couple of months and I am so excited to see where the year leads. I think one of the most important things I have gotten out of the Dignity Project so far has been a space to practice hard conversations. It is something that you don’t really understand the full value of until you are in a space where that kind of approach to discourse is really cultivated. I am applying to colleges and I have written about the Dignity Project in a whole bunch of my supplemental essays. I truly believe that the skills I am learning right now, in terms of how to galvanize a group and reach a compromise, or reach a place of being able to agree to disagree in the midst of heated debate, I know I will carry that with me throughout the rest of my high school experience and into college and beyond. Once again thank you thank you for all of your support. The fifteen other fellows and all of our mentors deeply appreciate it.

Our Program & Fellows

Jessica Khani
Radhika Heda
Quentin Robinson
Maayan Falk-Judson
Chloe Bancel
Olivia Bancel
Mikayla von Ehrenkrook
Nour Alajarma
Malak Ahmed
Aliza Kopans
Caroline Gannon
Grace Kelly
Lucy Tonthat
Tal Yahalom
Kobe Deener-Agus

  • Forge personal relationships with peers and mentors from different religious and cultural contexts
  • Explore the values and beliefs—religious and secular—supporting participants’ commitments to creating an equitable and compassionate society
  • Learn how to engage in constructive dialogue and work with a diverse team of individuals
  • Study the lives and work of “upstanders” from American and world history, including the sources of wisdom that inspired, informed, and guided them
  • Develop communication skills for use in formal and informal educational settings
  • Assist Fellows in planning meaningful projects that positively impact their communities and offer an opportunity to experiment with project-based learning and using their voice for change

 

NOTE: Until further notice, all activities are being planned to take place virtually this year. We are planning with all hope to start the 2021-2022 Fellowship in person.

Fellowship Orientation Retreat

  • 3 days/2 nights in Greater Boston Area
  • Late August

4 Interactive Workshops

  • September to April
  • Sundays, 4-7pm

Trip to Washington D.C. 

  • 3 days/2 nights

Community Project Development and Deliverable

  • January to March
  • Small group collaboration

Closing Retreat and Celebration 

  • 1 day in April
  • Celebration welcomes Fellows’ and Mentors’ guests

Closing Evaluation and Reflection Gathering

  • Sunday in May, 4-7pm

  • Intercultural, Interracial, and Interreligious Literacy (with a focus on learning how to responsibly hold space that includes tension)
  • Intersectional Identity Formation
  • Creating a Community of Practice
  • Facilitation of Courageous Conversations
  • Diverse Coalition Building
  • Program Design & Implementation
  • Public Voice: Speaking & Writing for Bridge-Building and Social Change
  • Deep Listening, Communication, Conflict Resolution, & Dialogue Skills
  • Relationship-Building and Fruitful Collaboration Across Difference
  • The Power of Vulnerability and Sharing Stories
  • Anti-Bias Work: Seeing Past Stereotypes and Overcoming Assumptions

  • Group Discussion
  • Storytelling
  • Group Collaboration
  • Professional Presentations
  • Scenarios & Case Studies
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Reflective Exercises
  • Reflective Structured Dialogue 
  • Facilitation Practice
  • “Doing Life Together and Having Fun” (Games, Travel, Meals Shared)

The Dignity Project Fellowship is open to outstanding high school emerging leaders from the Greater Boston area with a passion for interreligious and cross-cultural and cross-racial engagement. Applicants can apply on their own or can be nominated by a community leader. Each student must fill out a brief application form and provide a letter of recommendation. The Miller Center Staff will make final selections of all Fellows in the spring/early summer. Cohorts range in size from 14-20 Fellows.

Each participant will actively engage in all of the activities listed above. There will be brief pre-work (reading, podcast, video) to be completed in advance of some in-person meetings. In addition, each participant will also be expected to co-create and live by Community Commitments that will shape our way of being together as we practice a shared set of values. Finally, Fellows will contribute to the planning & implementation of small team projects that positively and meaningfully engage the Fellows’ communities.

Each participant will receive a $100 stipend upon completion of the program, group evaluation, and written evaluation with the fellowship coordinator.

The Mentor role is a unique opportunity to get hands-on practice in a relationally diverse community with leadership, mentorship, and program design. As guides, teachers, facilitators, and spiritual leaders, Mentors embody for the Fellows what it means to be firmly rooted in self, in tradition, in values, and in justice. Mentors provide Fellows with their unique perspectives, gifts, skills, and creative leadership. Together Mentors and Fellows participate in a reciprocal dance in which everyone is empowered to fully step into their voice, their leadership and their unique potential. 

Our Staff and Mentors come from diverse faith, racial, and cultural backgrounds and lived experiences. Depending on the range of those who apply, we have Mentors who identify as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Buddhist, Interfaith, Hindu, Humanist, and Unitarian Universalist. Just as we welcome all youth Fellows, we employ and welcome Mentors of all races, cultures, genders, perspectives and traditions!

2020-2021 Mentors

Abubakr Fakhry
Batya Ellinoy
Martin Mugerwa
Preeta Banerjee
Kim Bress

More info

Please contact Shelton Oakley Hersey, Dignity Project Program Director, to find out about this opportunity, to receive an application and to provide nominations for the 2021-2022 academic year.

  • Ms. Shelton Oakley Hersey, Dignity Project Program Director
  • Ms. Kim Bress, Dignity Project Assistant Director
  • Mr. Tom Reid, Associate Director, Miller Center, Hebrew College
  • Rabbi Or Rose, Director, Miller Center, Hebrew College
  • Ms. Marilyn Stern, Community Engagement Administrator, Miller Center, Hebrew College

The Dignity Project is a much-needed and very thoughtfully developed space for accompanying the next generation of leaders. Integrating spiritual diversity is a critical component of embracing the fullness of humanity and ushering the compassion and wisdom required for a better future.

Preeta Banerjee, 2020-2021 Mentor

How to Apply

The 2021-2022 application is now open. Please fill out the following online fellowship application form and instruct your letter of recommendation to be emailed to soakleyhersey@hebrewcollege.edu. Dignity Project Staff will contact the applicant via email within a month of receiving the application and letter of recommendation. Thanks for your interest! If you would like to hear more about the program from the Program Director or a past Fellow or Mentor, we’d love to have a phone or Zoom conversation with you.

 


Questions

Contact Shelton Oakley Hersey, Dignity Project Program Director, Miller Center, Hebrew College.