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The Youth & Mentors Curriculum: A Successful Pilot Program in Teaching Critical Media Skills, Bullying Prevention, Diversity Appreciation, and Leadership Skills for Diverse Middle School Students

When/Where: Monday, 9:00-10:30am in Claypoole.

Presenters: Lynne Azarchi, Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum; Paula Rodriguez Rust, Spectrum Diversity, LLC. Presider: Greg Richards

Objectives: Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum piloted an innovative program to teach middle schoolers about media literacy, bullying prevention, and respect for diversity. This session provies a hands-on interactive demonstration to enable participants to duplicate certain aspects of the program.

Audience: PK-12 Schooling, Higher Education, Non-Profit Sector


DESCRIPTION: In 2009-2010, Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum of Trenton, NJ (Lynne Azarchi, Executive Director) piloted an innovative, intensive program, “Youth and Mentors,” to teach middle school students about media literacy, bullying prevention and respect for diversity. One hundred middle school students from four schools representing diverse areas of Mercer County, New Jersey took part in the program. Students from each school visited the museum twice for a total of eight hours of activities and interaction in small groups with students from other schools with different racial, and socioeconomic profiles. The curriculum was developed by Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust of Spectrum Diversity LLC, and college students were selected and trained to lead the small group discussions.

In addition to developing media literacy skills and raising students’ awareness about bullying and prejudice, the program also developed students’ leadership and intervention skills to empower them to create positive changes in their school communities. Although some portions of the program focused on general skills (critical evaluation of media messages, recognizing stereotypes, etc.) other portions of the program focused on specific aspects of media literacy and specific forms of diversity (e.g., the impact of playing violent video games on subsequent behavior, socioeconomic diversity, cyber safety, and sexual orientation/gender identity, i.e., LGBTIQ, diversity).

Students completed two pre-assessments and two post-assessments to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, and the results show dramatic attitudinal improvements in students’ attitudes, levels of knowledge and behavioral intentions. For example, after the program, 46% of students disagreed more with the statement “television and movies are a good way to learn about how other people live,” and 53% agreed more that “what we see on TV and in movies is controlled by a few big corporations” and more strongly rejected the idea that stereotypes on TV “just reflect the way different people are in real life” than they had before the program. Students were also more likely to say that they enjoy having friends from diverse backgrounds, more likely to recognize that using the phrase “so gay” as a put-down is offensive to gay people, and were more likely to say that they would feel empathy for a peer who was excluded by others. When asked about behavioral changes, 74% of students said that since participating in the program they had “been less influenced by advertisements that are trying to sell me something,” and 91% said that they had “been more careful what I say in txt, IM, or online messages.”

The curriculum was designed with portability in mind so that it could be replicated in modified form by other institutions and schools. The proposed presentation outlines the structure, method, and goals of the Youth and Mentors program, provides findings demonstrating program effectiveness and introduces some of the unique small group activities and curricular materials. Participants will have the opportunity to watch video clips of the program, participate in a hands-on demonstration of at least one of the educational activities developed for the program, and review findings pertaining to program effectiveness.

Participant Involvement

In addition to the information that will be presented, attendees will engage in a hands-on interactive demonstration of one of the unique activities designed for the Youth & Mentor program, and will have an opportunity to examine curricular materials used in the program and will be invited to ask questions.


  • Lynne Azarchi, Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum: Conceived and created youth tolerance museum on campus, the only one of its kind in the US, partnering with The College of New Jersey. Each year, more than 2500 elementary and middle school youth interact with 400 education and psychology undergraduates, supervised by their professors. Other Kidsbridge programs include: at-risk youth life skills programs and annual competition for youth community service. MBA from Columbia University. More than 25 years in nonprofit and association management.
  • Paula Rodriguez Rust, Spectrum Diversity, LLC: Dr. Rodríguez Rust is a professional sociologist with thirty years of experience teaching about diversity, social relations, and violence and prejudice. She received her doctorate at the University of Michigan, with subspecialties in social psychology, prejudice and group relations, survey methodology and statistical analysis. She taught at the university level for twelve years, receiving tenure at Hamilton College, and continuing at the State University of New York. Dr. Rust left higher academia to focus on community-based diversity education and violence prevention.
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