Rachel Lazarus Eriksen, LCSW, BACS
Director of Clinical Services
Last Friday, February 10th, I was pleased to represent JFS as Facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Unity Day Youth Summit. What an incredible event! Hundreds of high school sophomore students from 30 area schools came together to discuss diversity, standing up to hate and bullying in their schools, and promoting inclusiveness in their communities. I was honored to be asked to facilitate for these amazing students.
Students separated into small groups. I worked in a group of 14 students; each from different schools and backgrounds. One of my favorite activities was making identity sculptures. Students chose four pipe cleaners and created a sculpture to represent their identity, with each pipe cleaner representing one piece of their identity (for example- one pipe cleaner could signify race, another signified religion, another represented gender, and another age). Students then had to remove or hide one of the pipe cleaners – to symbolize being forced to hide part of their identity. The purpose of the activity was to increase awareness of the role identity plays in how one sees the world and to develop understanding about the impact of trying to hide aspects of one’s identity. This helped build empathy towards others who may not feel safe to disclose aspects of their identity. An interesting discussion followed of how they would feel if they had to remove or hide something about themselves. Finally, they added the pipe cleaner back to their sculpture and discussed how it felt replacing that piece of them. Students finished the day crafting action plans to bring back to their schools and communities.
It was truly heart-warming to watch these young minds discuss some very difficult topics. They were remarkably respectful, open minded and insightful. All in all a fantastic day filled with important conversations.