The National Youth Leadership Mission utilizes the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s dramatic portrayal of the events of the Holocaust to provide a substantive and effective program to help students apply the important lessons of the Holocaust to modern-day issues of anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate. Each year a diverse group of high school juniors from across the country are selected to participate because of their leadership potential, demonstrated interest in addressing issues of diversity, and ability to impart the messages of the Mission to others. To date over 1600 students have participated in this program. Upon returning home, delegates participate in a variety of structured and informal follow-up activities throughout the year to build upon and reinforce the enduring messages of the Mission.
In Washington, D.C., delegates participate in ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute activities, which are designed to provide an overview of the nature of bigotry and prejudice and to develop a supportive group environment both within and between the various delegations. A centerpiece of the Mission is the tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Upon completing the tour, participants gather for extensive debriefing sessions and have the opportunity to meet with Holocaust survivors who share their stories of strength and survival.
Participants also meet with other community leaders, ranging from government officials to civil rights legends to trailblazing educators, who offer modern day examples of standing against bigotry. The Mission culminates with a moving closing ceremony focusing on the role that youth can play in breaking the cycle of hate. Through these and other exercises, participants acknowledge their responsibility to educate themselves and others, and are reminded that they each possess the power—through their actions and behavior—to make a difference in the lives of others.
As part of this program, delegates develop an action plan that they will complete in the following year, in order to share their experiences and their new-found knowledge with their families, classmates and other community members. Examples of past action plans have included creating a video about genocide, speaking to schools about the Holocaust, and organizing a walk about ADL’s “No Place for Hate”.