Hours Against Hate, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, issued nine mini-grants of up to $1,000 each for the 2018-19 school year, to better expand its work to children and schools.
In general, Hours Against Hate pairs participants who do not look, love or pray the same. The program provides a space for them to meet and overcome their differences. It’s hoped that through interacting they can learn about their own biases.
While the program has been more adult-oriented in the past, Andrea Bernstein, the Hours Against Hate coordinator, sought to bring its ideals to a younger generation.
“Kids are more open,” she said. “They’re growing up in a time where I think we’re talking more about diversity. I think kids are less set in their ways and more open to new ideas, that’s what it means to be a kid.”
The grants often bridge gaps across racial and religious lines, exposing students from different parts of the greater Milwaukee area to others of diverse backgrounds. Recipients included Shorewood High School, Pulaski High School, Milwaukee Jewish Day School in partnership with Riverside High School, South Division High School, Lloyd Barbee Montessori and partnering schools Bayside Middle School, Nova Tech and El Puente High School.
Bayside Middle School used its mini-grant funding to pilot “Courageous Conversations,” a series of lunches where students discuss issues with inclusivity and brainstorm ways to take action to better the school’s climate.
“We wanted to help our kids grow up in a community that’s better than normal … middle school can be super miserable,” said Kristal Melbye, a Bayside Middle School parent and volunteer who facilitates the program.
Fifth and sixth grade students at Bayside Middle School worked with “No One Eats Alone,” an organization that encourages kids to “mix it up” and eat lunch with new people. This is intended to spread the program’s inclusive message to the rest of the school. Seventh and eighth grade students focused on showing kindness to kids with invisible disabilities and learning to be allies with their LGBTQ+ peers.
“I enjoy doing it and I think it’s a great idea because it’ll help people who are excluded feel more included,” said Kate, Melbye’s daughter and an incoming 8th-grade student at Bayside Middle School who has participated in “Courageous Conversations.”
“They’re just like us,” she said, “even though some people might think they’re not.”