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Program Helps Teens Challenge Stereotypes

Unity and tolerance were the theme of Esperanza High School’s weeklong “Breaking Down the Walls” program, which included motivational speakers, group workshops and a school assembly that focused on breaking stereotypes, building teams and celebrating the individual.

“We wanted to break down the barriers on campus and build relationships,” said Doug Domene, a teacher who helped organize the program. “By building these relationships, it will build tolerance and reduce violence.”

The program, the first of its scope at the school, was funded by a $5,000 grant from the Orange County Department of Education. The school put up an equal amount and hired independent consultant Phil Boyte to direct the week’s events, which concluded Friday.

“We give them permission to go outside their circles and get to know each other,” Boyte said. The most popular activities among students appeared to be workshops in which they played games, worked in teams to organize a mock fashion show and shared their experiences in small question-and-answer groups.

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“There were people in my group that I stereotyped and thought I wouldn’t like,” said Cheyanne Cook, 17, of Yorba Linda. “But when I met them, they could be my best friend.”

Roxana Resai, 14, of Yorba Linda said the lessons of the week will stay with her.

“It’s really common to use racial slurs when you’re talking with your friends, but this week if you used one, people said, ‘Break down the walls,’ ” Resai said. “Even though they’re half-joking, you don’t do it again. I really appreciated it.”


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