In 2000, Global Bridge Foundation with Higher Ground for Humanity Foundation, co-sponsored and hosted a one-day conference for approximately 300 Los Angeles high school youth, ages 15-18 called “Being the Difference that makes the Difference”. The conference was held at UCLA and focused on personal growth issues facing young people, in relationship to themselves, each other, and the community as a whole. The conference placed emphasis on:
• Developing friendships with an increasingly diverse circle, with a focus on helping peers in need.
• Defining core values and personal integrity.
• Cultivating a sense of life purpose, while overcoming personal obstacles.
• Leadership skills through teamwork, mentoring and partnership.
• Developing love relationships and intimacy skills.
Participants in the conference represented a cross-section of Los Angeles area high school students. Criteria for participants included young people who may have experienced cultural and psychological pressures that frequently limited and distorted their life choices, and yet who were inspired to make a difference in the world.
During the conference participants chose from a variety of small groups. The groups were designed to ignite the passion and desire to make a difference. Sessions were led by educators, therapists, experienced facilitators and, whenever possible, peer group leaders. The groups addressed obstacles that participants faced in their lives, such as lack of family and/or community support, peer pressure, and addictions. Participants were taught listening skills, and how to identify their core needs, leading to the cultivation of awareness and sensitivity. Participants were given practical strategies that enabled them to translate their ideas and goals into reality.
Following the conference, on-going groups met at various locations throughout Los Angeles. These meetings focused on the theme of how each of them could be the difference in the world.