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Youth Leadership Program Seeks Common Ground

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By Mana Rabiee

Students from the D.C. area spent the Martin Luther King Junior weekend immersed in a program that uses their respective histories to find common ground.

Some 25 juniors from local public and private high schools were chosen for this year's "Operation Understanding."

It's a year-long leadership program that teaches black and Jewish students to fight against discrimination.

The class of 2010 met in Georgetown where Rabbi Jack Moline's offered a crash course in Jewish history.

"The Israelites wander forty years in the wilderness. During that time a new generation dies out a new generation is born. The generation that dies out are the people who could not free themselves mentally from slavery," says Moline.

Program leaders say much of the curriculum is based on finding similar threads in their histories such as the Holocaust and slavery.

Kay-von Marquez Miles of Southeast D.C. and Zaydek Michels-Gualtieri from Northwest have been roommates during the program.

"I guess I could say I came here with some prejudice of white people and I'm leaving today without," says Kay-von.

"I was gonna say this kid has a lot to offer that I would have never expected. He's one of my best roommates," replies Zaydek.

Among the program's alumni are state lawmakers and community activists.

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