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Hundreds Inspired by MLK’s Legacy and Tomorrow’s Leaders at the American Conference on Diversity Breakfast

Gail Zoppo

Monday, February 4, 2013 • 10:43am

The American Conference on Diversity Atlantic County (NJ) Chapter’s 32nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Brotherhood-Sisterhood Breakfast drew several hundred students, educators, diversity and inclusion practitioners, and local leaders to The Richard Stockton College January 22 for a morning of inspiration.

“Our annual event energized more than 250 New Jersey students and will help keep Dr. King’s dream alive,” said the American Conference on Diversity President and CEO Elizabeth William’s-Riley.

True to the American Conference on Diversity’s interfaith roots, the chilly morning began with a heart-warming invocation by Reverend William M. Williams III, of the Asbury United Methodist Church, and closed with a thoughtful benediction by Gus Harmon of the Pleasantville City Council. Throughout the event, attendees were serenaded by student-led musical ensembles. Presenter Ali Reynolds, Director of Community Development Partnerships for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, set a self-reflective tone prior to the student panel discussion focused on Dr. King messages with these words, “You decide what social injustices you will deal with!”

Here’s how our panelists and tomorrow’s leaders are dealing with social injustice:

►Ilana Anmuth, Atlantic City High School: “For the past two years, I have been the only white football cheerleader. Some people were surprised to hear that I wanted to be an A.C. high cheerleader, but I didn’t let that stop me…. My experience shows that integration can be successful at a high school and become a social norm everywhere if we let it.”

►Caroline Cullen, Hammonton High School: “[Our] Student Council organizes a select group of seniors to make a difference by aiding students in making better decisions…helping a struggling student, or helping out any student who may be bullied. The select students encourage their peers in a way that Martin Luther King, Jr., would proudly support.”

►Tiffany Gordon, Mainland Regional High School: “Dr. King opened the eyes of many, including my own generation. We now understand that our lives begin and end the moment we become silent about things that matter.”

►Gabrielle Hughes, Absegami High School: “We all face tough choices…. While some decisions, like studying the extra hour or saying hi to the shy kid in class, can seem minor in one short moment, those same decisions can amount to something of great, lasting importance.”

►Gina Lewis, Holy Spirit High School: “As long as we are all united in our boat, we can not only dream of the day when every single American can be satisfied with our society, but also guarantee the progress toward the utopia that this country should be for all.”

►Apreyah Parks, Oakcrest High School: “Our early generation has fought for us to have better education and rights today…. The time is right, right now, to start remembering what the leaders before us have fought for.”

►James Plummer, Egg Harbor Township High School: “Our nation lacks adequate healthcare standards and, in order for us to grow as a nation, we must make the necessary changes for the betterment of not only our present-day generation but for future generations.”

►Cy Roary, Atlantic City High School East: “Guns permeate our communities to the point that children are scared to go out at night. Every weekend is another funeral of a young life cut short. Dr. King fought diligently for the right to do anything and be anything no matter the tone of your skin, yet we have forgotten his ways of non-violence and deny ourselves the chances to grow up and be somebody.”

►Lorena Ruiz, Pleasantville High School: “One is here in this world for a reason, and that reason is not to just live for the sake of living, but to live for something worth of value and purpose that applies to far greater than ourselves.”

“It's important for kids to take part in this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., program year after year so they can live the message of the American Conference on Diversity,” said Joe Monteleone, a guidance counselor at Absegami High School.

In addition to representatives from Absegami High School, the following middle and high schools attended the event: Adler Avenue Middle School, Atlantic City High School, Atlantic City High School East, Egg Harbor Township High School, Fernwood Ave. Middle School, Hammonton High School, Holy Spirit High School, Mainland Regional High School, New York Avenue School, Oakcrest High School, Pennsylvania Avenue School, Pleasantville High School, and Pleasantville Middle School.

Our Atlantic County Chapter Board includes: Chapter Chair Eric Reynolds, Immediate Past Chair Donna Nelson Lee*, Vice-Chair of Finance Daniel Kelly, Vice-Chair of Programs Dianne S. Lennon, Vice Chair of Publicity Alyce Parker, John Bettis*, Al Cade**, James Cooper*, Jonathan Diego, Yvonne Doggett*, Tamika Gilbert Floyd, Victor Gazzara, Charles Garrett, Rabbi Gordon L. Geller, Fran Goldstein, Sonya Harris, Donna Haye, Dr. Juanita J. High, Enilda Mahrer, Riaz A. Rajput, Patricia Royal, Laurie Shanderson, Kaleem Shabazz, Maria I. Torres, Mayor Jesse L. Tweedle, and Helen Walsh.
*Ex-Officio Members – Past Chapter Chairs
**Ex-Officio Member - Chair Emeritus

The programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity, which has been serving schools, organizations, workplaces, and communities in New Jersey since 1948, builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates eight chapters to help us to educate and empower leaders and bring our messages of inclusion and respect to communities throughout New Jersey: Atlantic County Chapter, Bayonne Chapter, Central Jersey Chapter, Essex County Chapter, Greater Bergen Chapter, Hudson County Chapter, Jersey Shore Chapter, and Mercer County Chapter. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.

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