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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Operation Understanding DC

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Children & Youth, Civil Rights, Community & Neighborhood Development, Cultural & Ethnic Awareness, Economic Development, Intergroup & Race Relations, Race, Youth Community Service Clubs

Mission: Operation Understanding DC's mission is to build a generation of community leaders who will work to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination, and to promote respect, understanding and cooperation within their communities.

Results: Thus far, more than 550 students and their families have directly participated in OUDC’s award-winning program, and, through their outreach efforts, over 60,000 students and adults have been engaged in fulfilling the organization’s overall goal: creating a society where all members have equal access to opportunity and freedom from discrimination.

Target demographics: Black and/or Jewish high school juniors in the Washington metropolitan area are encouraged to apply in the fall.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 24 students and their families

Geographic areas served: Washington, DC metropolitan area

Programs: our year-long, experiential learning program that transforms curious high school juniors and graduate into committed leaders for social justice. Throughout the year, they meet in board rooms and church basements around Washington for educational sessions and honest dialogue about slavery, the Holocaust, the Civil Rights movement, current national and international issues, religion and spirituality, and much more. In July, they travel from New York City to the Deep South to explore their histories and create their blueprints for future activism. Each day is filled with inspirational speakers, educational tours and life-changing experiences. Upon returning, OUDC’s students begin the real work of creating change. They give presentations about their experiences in synagogues and churches, facilitate workshops about stereotyping and discrimination for individuals from all age groups and find other creative ways of promoting respect and understanding.

Community Stories

94 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Client Served

Rating: 4

I participated in this program several years ago and the summer trip greatly improved my understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. The experience also made me feel strongly about how much farther we have to go as a nation in order to ensure equal rights for all. As our group toured through Southern towns where African Americans still could not join country clubs because it was "simply tradition," I realized I was having an opportunity few Americans have: seeing how the past, present, and future of our country mix and mingle in American homes and streets.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

I participated in OUDC in high school and it's had a lasting impression - though i'm neither Muslim nor Jewish I helped start a Muslim-Jewish dialogue group at my college in part because people knew I had experience and skills in cross cultural dialogue facilitation. I have lasting memories of the month long summer trip that have been incredibly impactful, including an experience with the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama that has informed my decision to go to law school and use those skills for those most vulnerable and in need of legal aid. In addition to this I made lifelong friendships.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a member of OUDC Class 14, I can honestly say that it completely changed the way I view the world and myself. From speaking with powerful activists to discussing the issues that occur in our society today, I gained a wealth of information about myself and my peers that continues to resonate in my life today. The topics we discussed as a class prove to be relevant in my everyday life, and I know that I will continue to be close with the friends that I met through OUDC. It was an amazing experience for me, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was part of class one and the experiences I had as a participant have really shaped my perspective for live. There are experiences, from politicians like Eleanor Holmes Norton and Barney Frank talking to us to, most of all, the intimate relationships made with other members of the group, that I will never forget.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a member of OUDC class 11 I can attest to how great a program it truly is. I learned to appreciate the rich culture and history of African Americans as well as my own Jewosh American heritage. The program taught me how to deal with discrimination both directed at me and at others. Furthermore it gave me the opportunity to meet many great people and visit some very important places. OUDC has certainly had a profound affect on my life.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Five years ago, I entered OUDC as a member of Class 11. I am now a senior in college and I still think about OUDC everyday. OUDC helped give me causes to care about, ways in which to think about them, and the courage and confidence to act on them. I learned so much about other cultures, about my own culture, and about myself, and grew as a writer, speaker, and person through the program. This year, as I try to figure out what to do in my post-college life, I at least know that I hope to find a job in which I can continue to work towards the kind of world we envision in OUDC.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

OUDC is an amazing program that provides youth from all socioeconomic classes in DC the opportunity to engage in a year long program learning about and working towards social justice through the lens of the Civil Rights movement as well as from people working against injustices today. We are not only engrained with the message of action but learn how to spread that message to the greater community through speeches and facilitations that participants lead in the second half of the program.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

OUDC is an incredible program that changes the lives of the students who are fortunate enough to be apart of it. I truly cannot say more--this organization re-shapes the way young people think about culture, religion, responsibility and their place in the ever-globalizing world.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a member of OUDC class 11 and the experience has forever changed the way I interact with others and the world. Over a year of intense meetings, culminating in a month long spiritual and emotional journey through New York City and the heart of the southern United States, we explored the deep-rooted histories of African-American and Jewish people and the many places where these histories have intertwined. Not only did I set to rest many questions about my own Jewish heritage, but I learned how structures like institutionalized racism came to be in this country. The friends and memories I made on my year long journey with OUDC will be with me wherever I go in life. The program spurred my interest in social justice and I will forever be indebted to the organization for providing me such an eye opening experience.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a member of Class 3 of Operation Understanding DC high school students, and my experience began when I was a junior in high school in 1997. Our year long program helped me to make friends from all walks of life, and to understand my potential to create change in the context of a larger civil rights movement, a movement in which much has been accomplished, but in which a lot more work remains to be done. Our summer journey, and especially the time we spent in cities in the south that served as major battlegrounds during the Civil Rights Movement, had a profound impact on me. I chose to become a lawyer and pursue a career grounded in ideals of social justice based in large part on my experience with Operation Understanding DC. This organization deserves to be recognized for the unparalleled experiences that it affords to its participants and the promotion of tolerance it brings to the entire DC area community.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Operation Understanding DC was more than just a great experience. For me, the program served as the beginning of a socially active life that I am still living today. On the summer journey, I met a Civil Rights activist that told me I was capable of doing anything I put my heart into. I'd heard that same phrase many times before, but it was hearing it that extra time from someone with so much passion and history that set me into motion. Because of everything the program offered and taught me, I feel able to affect change wherever I go. Currently, I lead a multicultural leadership program at my college that brings together the campus and its surrounding community. I find that I utilize the tools I garnered from OUDC on a regular basis and that I do a better job because of the things I learned. I can't express in this paragraph how much OUDC meant to me while I was a participant and how much it means to me now. It is a truly fantastic program!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a member of Class 11 and still can remember all of the things that were instilled in me as we spent our year together. The program offers a wonderful, unbiased view of the histories of both groups and gave us a collective knowledge that we could all draw from as we went on our journey. The journey, our month-long tour of the Civil Rights Movement, made quite an impact on me, and I remember coming back from the trip inspired, and with a burning desire to help others and be open to all cultures. Living my life in a positive way, encouraged to engage in dialogues with people of all cultures, and being able to understand things in new ways have all contributed to where I am today, and I look forward to passing along the lessons and values I learned and gained in this program as I graduate from college.

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

Operation Understanding DC was a life-changing experience. Eight years later I am still feeling the effects of my participation with this group. Not only does OUDC provide an eye-opening educational opportunity, but the program itself is a powerful tool in training life-long leaders who are committed to the fight for equal rights and greater cross-cultural understanding. OUDC!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am proud to have been a member of OUDC Class 9 in 2003-04. The best thing I can say about OUDC is how deeply it influenced me during my college years and beyond. First, I learned about OUDC because so many people I knew at my school had participated in prior years. After my participation, this continued. In fact, I encouraged my younger brother to apply and participate three years later, which he did. Having the opportunity to learn about African-American cultural history led me to major in Religion while attending Amherst College. Apart from my own Jewish religious background (which is deeply meaningful to me), I was exposed to African American religious traditions, which I found fascinating and meaningful. In addition, I resided in the Charles Drew Black Culture House at Amherst College during my sophomore year. In short, without OUDC, my understanding of American history, culture, politics, and religion would be much less complete. The critical point is not that I learned all there is to know, but that it is always possible and always important to learn more about other cultures and that the best way to do so is through direct relationships with others. It is one thing to read numerous books; but to meet people and get to know them is a far more powerful thing.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a member of OUDC Class 14, I learned about the African American and Jewish communities across the country. We met with some of the most famous leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and spoke with many other influential people. After the Simmer journey to New York and the South, I held programs and led workshops to help OUDC's message of peace and understanding reach out to others. Operation Understanding DC has been the most life changing experience for me.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a member of class 11 I can say that the lessons learned in Operation Understanding have continued to permeate all aspects of my life and have acted as a guide for navigating the continually complex issues of multiculturalism and religion after high school and into college. I now am able to facilitate these important discussions and am trying to help people in my community see the world the way Operation Understanding taught me to see it. If OUDC taught me anything, it is that it’s not enough just to see what’s wrong with the world: I will only have truly learned something from my experiences if I can educate and motivate others to change. After all, it was at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Oxford, Mississippi, where we were told that we are the people that we’ve been waiting for.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a former participant of the organization (class 8), I can say without hesitation that OUDC was a life-changing experience that continues to play a role in my life today. With OUDC, I learned skills around cultural understanding, facilitating workshops, and intergroup dialogue. OUDC led me to both study Sociology in college and ultimately pursue a career in social justice.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to participate in an amazing experience because of this organization. We learned all about the civil rights movement, and the importance of social justice in our everyday lives. Traveling through the deep south with my peers changed my perspective and my life. I am now a teacher in the inner city, working with the tools that OUDC gave me years ago, and are still entirely relevant today.

12

Client Served

Rating: 5

Operation Understanding DC is a phenomenal organization that helped shape my worldview and broaden my horizons as a high school student. As a participant in OUDC's inaugural class, I experienced first-hand the passion and dedication of the Organization's founder, Karen Kalish. Since that time, the organization has remained true to its mission while growing and expanding. It truly remains one of my fondest experiences, and I am confident it will continue to thrive and change lives.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

OUDC has changed my life. It has turned me into an advocate to make a difference in the lives of all children. I have learned not only about African American and Jewish culture but also the importance of working together for a cause