I work at a school that regularly sends students to the OUDC program. Not only does our school benefit from the rich relationships established from OUDC through its staff and network, but also by having our own students come back to teach their fellow students and teachers about what they have learned. Recently, one of our african-american male OUDC students invited his jewish male OUDC colleague to speak at our Martin Luther King Memorial Chapel. It was a powerful and authentic realization of the mission of OUDC.
I am a diversity director at a MD independent school. We have had various students from our school go through the OUDC program with wonderful results. I know OUDC graduates to be fantastic facilitators and end up educating their own school communities as a result of their experience. I find OUDC to be well-run and organized in its selection process and implementation of the program.
I am been affiliated with OUDC for over 15 years, as a donor, wife of a board member, facilitator of programs, and currently, as a parent of a participant. My son who grew up with OUDC as a household name, came home from his first program weekend saying that he was really glad that he participated, that he already has really good friends, and that he's happy for himself in addition to looking good for college. OUDC is the real deal: mission focused, competitive for the best participants, and providing a remarkable experience for the participants and the people with whom they interact.
OUDC is an incredible program that has enhanced racial and cultural understanding among people who would have met otherwise. By combining a leadership training of sorts, racial and cultural tolerance and a better understanding of this country's complex and often tumultuous history, OUDC has shaped new leaders that will create a more tolerant world. This program has truly transformed lives.
I was a professional who has referred students from our congregation to participate in the program. I have been overwhelmed by the value of their experiences and how well prepared these teens are to then share this experience with others! EVERY student I know who has participated raves about the experience and how greatly they were impacted through participation in the program. These teens have also addressed the adult congregation during morning services and their poise and passion are a great symbol of the profound change created through their participation with OUDC.
As a former member of the OUDC board, I'll admit to being biased in favor of the organization. However, since returning to Montgomery, Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center (of which I'm a co-founder) in 1996, I've come to know OUDC in a much different way. Each year OUDC students have included the SPLC's Civil Rights Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial Center on their trips through the South; and each year I've had the opportunity to speak with these young men and women about my experiences in addressing issues of justice and tolerance. More importantly, I've listened to them - their questions, their comments. If ever anyone had any doubts about the merits of a program that brings young people together to bridge differences and create understanding, an hour with these kids would make a believer out any such person. They get it. And, they get it because of who they are and how OUDC has matured as an organization in the management of its mission. Congratulations to all.
This is a phenomenal organization that has a deep and lasting impact on the students who participate in it and the communities that they serve. As a rabbi, I have encouraged several students to take part in this program over the years and all have come back to thank me for letting them know about the opportunity. For many, it was their first real exposure to issues related to the civil rights movement and their first opportunity for real cross-cultural dialogue. The students report back several years later that they are still in close touch with the friends they made in the program and, in some cases, it has affected their career choice.
Several of my students have had outstanding experiences through their involvement in Operation Understanding DC. I am impressed with all this organization does to promote positive relationships within the context of understanding the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
OUDC was an important program for both of my daughters in terms of deepening their understanding of themselves as young African American women, as allies in the important history of Jewish-African American solidarity, and as citizens of the world. It is a model for how to "do diversity" beyond quickie workshops. OUDC goes deep.
I worked for the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) for seven years and some of the best young leaders I met during that time were youth formed by this program. They engage in a meaningful summer trip to places of importance to the Jewish and African-American communities and return home transformed and willing to work to build more tangible bridges of understanding between the two groups. They also learn how to share their story with others in the community, leveraging the impact of their experience. I'm proud that a young person from my own church is a graduate of this program and wish that others would make such a commitment to engage in it.
My name is Reynauld Smith and I am a retired AP US History teacher from the District public school system. For more than 10 years I have been one of the opening presenters with Operation Understanding. My presentations usulally include an overview of the Civil Rights Movement and African American History, my personal involvement in The Movement and specific Civil Rights issues of today. The concept of bringing African American and Jewish students together to study the history and culture of each group lends itself to numerous positive outcomes. At least seven of my former African American students have been selected to participate in the program and all, but one, have completed college. All of my former students were products of the District of Columbia inner city and many of these students had no desire to attend any College of University. Very few of my students had ever met anyone that was Jewish or middle/upper middle class. To witness these students step out of their confort zone and actively embrace the culture of another group is humbling. The Summer Travel component where students visit historical Jewish and African American sites from New york to Mississippi, is "Life Altering." Students visit sites important to jewish and Afrian American history and culture and get the opportunity to meet the people that created and lived that history... The campus of Tuskegee University, Dr King's personal lawyer, participants in the Selma to Montgomery March, former members of SCLC and SNCC. As a former educator this the ultimate example of "Primary Source." Finally Students must become active participants in making a positive difference in Race Relations in America...registering voters and helping to rebuild churches in Missippi and speaking with Holocaust survivors and ensuring them that "We Will Never Forget." I think the greatest reward of this program is that it addresses one of the major divisions in our society..."RACE." To have these teenagers come together for one year and forge bonds of friendship and love helps me to remain optimistic about the future of American Race Relations.