At a recent school assembly, Oxford Area High School was officially designated a "No Place for Hate" school by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for the fourth straight year.
The program helps organize schools to develop projects that enhance the appreciation of diversity and foster harmony among diverse groups. The campaign empowers schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.
The initiative was spearheaded by the high school's Student Diversity Council, which was formed at the beginning of the 2009-10 year. The school received the designation after completing and documenting a series of No Place for Hate activities during the previous school year.
During the 2012-13 year, the council sponsored several community service projects, participated in the Race Against Racism held in Lancaster, and visited the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. To celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, the council created a photo display of students holding signs reading "I Have a Dream ...," after which they wrote their personal dream of a better world. Committee members also participated in the Multi-Cultural Diversity Awareness Conference at Kennett High School.
For 2013-14 the committee will host the first annual State Conference on Race on Jan. 18, when high-school students from across Pennsylvania will come to Oxford to discuss issues of race, tolerance and diversity. Prior to the conference, committee members will hold a workshop on these issues for students at Penn's Grove Middle School.
Guest speaker at the assembly was Frank Meeink, a Philadelphia native who joined the Neo-Nazi movement as a teenager. Meeink spoke about his life as a skinhead, which included acts of violence that led to his imprisonment at age 17.
During his incarceration, he began to realize he had more in common with his fellow prisoners, who represented nearly every ethnic group and lifestyle, than with the people he associated with as a member of a hate group. After his release, he was given a job by a Jewish businessperson who became a mentor and father figure.
With encouragement from his boss, Meeink was able to overcome his racist past and set a positive example for his daughter. He has now worked with the Anti-Defamation League for close to 20 years, speaking at schools nationwide, writing a memoir and establishing a hockey program for at-risk youth.