Cherry Hill West chosen to participate in No Place for Hate pilot program

In the program, selected students will participate in peer training and hold anti-bias workshops with their fellow peers.

Three times, Cherry Hill High School West has been named No Place for Hate, a designation given to schools that make a concerted effort to reduce bias and bullying and increase appreciation for diversity through a series of school-wide projects. The Anti-Defamation League annually gives the designation to schools across the region.

This year, Cherry Hill West’s previous efforts in the program are being rewarded, as the high school will now participate in a new pilot program.

The school is participating in No Place for Hate PLUS, a nationwide pilot program where the Anti-Defamation League will work directly with students to provide in-depth training and further the goals of the program. Cherry Hill West was the only school in the region chosen to participate.

Lindsay Shafer, assistant project director for No Place For Hate, said Cherry Hill West was invited to pilot the program because the school showed a commitment to creating a more inclusive learning environment and a culture of respect.

Assistant Principal Allison Staffin feels Cherry Hill West’s diverse student population makes it a great school to pilot No Place For Hate’s new program. One of the major goals of the program is to get students to learn more deeply about their peers rather than make general assumptions about them based on their background.

“You want to make sure you’re taking into consideration everybody’s story,” Staffin said.

There are two parts to the pilot program. One part is peer training, where selected students will work with facilitators from the Anti-Defamation League in a three-day, interactive anti-bias training.

“Our students will be trained to be peer trainers,” Staffin said. “They will be able to have these difficult conversations with their peers to discover how they talk to one another and how they respond to one another.”

Once training is complete, the peer trainers will participate in weekly meetings where they will develop leadership and facilitation skills. The peer leaders will also hold anti-bias workshops with their peers.

“Peer trainers learn how to effectively respond when they hear name-calling, bullying and hateful or discriminatory comments in the hallways, lunchrooms and classrooms of their schools,” Shafer said. “They also develop the skills to lead interactive discussions and workshops for their peers and younger students.”

As part of the pilot program, selected students will also serve as members of the No Place for Hate Committee, which will discuss school-based issues and develop a plan on how to address the issues. The committee will execute the plan through activities engaging the entire student body in active learning, discussion and follow-up activities.

“Serving as committee members will give students the opportunity to play a large role in the creation and implementation of a school’s No Place for Hate plan,” Shafer said.

The school is going through the process of selecting students. Staffin expects around 20 to 22 students to be selected.

Shafer said the goal of the pilot program is to actively engage all members of the school community and create a more positive school climate. Staffin believes the program will not only help create a more inclusive culture at Cherry Hill West, but also in the Cherry Hill community as a whole.

“The idea is they are young enough that they will turn-key it and it will grow,” Staffin said.