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LEADD, a program of the Interfaith Alliance Foundation.

"I want to talk about my beliefs at school, but I know most people don't believe the same things…"
"I hate it when people think they have all the answers, like with politics or religion…"
"I wish people could just agree to disagree…"

Dear Friends,
Do these statements sound familiar? They are the thoughts and expressions of high school students who face sensitive issues of religion and politics every day - whether at school, on sports teams, or in the workplace They are the feelings expressed by those who both want to share things they believe in strongly, but also want to respect other people's right to different opinions.

This struggle is not limited to a few. Today we live in the most religiously pluralistic nation in the world, a nation that was founded on the principles of religious freedom and democracy. Yet today we also find ourselves in a nation in which, though we are surrounded by talk of religion and values, basic civil rights are being challenged and religious freedom (is being redefined. In many current political debates, the First Amendment to the Constitution itself has been questioned by those in positions to influence policy changes in the public square and the public schools.

Interfaith Alliance Foundation believes every generation has the right and responsibility to add its voice to American civic dialogue. If we are to protect religious freedom and democracy, young adults must become informed, engaged citizens. With this goal in mind, Interfaith Alliance Foundation has created a fascinating new leadership program entitled LEADD, Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity. LEADD envisions young adults as active citizens, shaping our democracy to reflect America's rich diversity of heritage, culture, religion, and values.

LEADD first launched in August of 2006 at the Mountain Retreat & Learning Centers in Highlands, North Carolina. Thirty youth from throughout the nation joined together for a week-long immersion in American history and contemporary religious diversity. Our inaugural LEADD camp inspired thirty new religious liberty advocates, who are now working in their home communities to make a difference! In 2007 we brought a new group of 29 together near Baltimore.

In 2008 we expanded the LEADD program to include a weekend LEADD model as well as the weeklong summer program. Weekend LEADD is now our standard program. Our hope is that LEADD will continue to ignite passion within a new generation of “LEADDers”– the young adults who will become the very advocates who will continue to protect the religious freedom and democracy that have shaped our great nation.

We thank you for your interest and we do hope you'll apply and/or help spread the word about LEADD. Help us grow our democracy and ensure religious freedom by engaging and empowering the next generation to become informed First Amendment advocates.

Sincerely,
Welton Gaddy
Rev. Dr. C Welton Gaddy
President
Interfaith Alliance Foundation

What students say about LEADD:

I would definitely recommend LEADD to everyone I know.  It was one of the best, more enriching experiences of my life.  The things I learned, the friendships I made, and the stories I have to tell can never be replaced.  This opportunity is so amazing, and I would hope that everybody gets to experience it because it will be one of the best things you will ever do. ~ Taylor

When I came to LEADD, I was astonished. On the first day, I was amazed at how many religions I didn't know about. It was great because although we were so diverse, everybody was so outgoing and it felt like a family.
With LEADD, I learned that we should strive to educate others about our own religion, but also take the time to learn about other religions as well, because ignorance comes from those who don't know and we should take it as our duty to help people learn.
My goal is to enter the medical profession, and I think that LEADD  helped me become more outgoing, which will help me in the future. The diversity was just amazing and it showed me that all people can get along, no matter what race, gender, or religion they are.  ~ Rajdeep

I would definitely recommend LEADD to teens in Connecticut and all over the country. Not only is LEADD so much fun but it teaches you to be a more active citizen. It is up to our generation to make positive changes regarding religious pluralism and Leadd gives you the facts and the resources you need to make a difference. You will leave with a better understanding of our country, religion and how to make a positive change in your area.  ~ Hilary

I would definitely recommend LEADD to other kids back home. More kids in my area need to be exposed to different kinds of people, because the Detroit area is very segregated. We have so many different kinds of people here, yet each group rarely socializes with the other. More kids should know that this isn’t normal, and should make it their goal to expose themselves to more diverse settings.  ~ Calvin

Would I recommend LEADD to other kids back home?  Certainly. Some folks could use an experience such as LEADD as an awakening, or as evidence that they're not the only faith in the world. Others, like myself, I'm sure would be thrilled to meet like-minded people and create meaningful friendships without spending months and months getting to know one another a little bit at a time. ~ Hannah

What parents say about LEADD:

My daughter returned from LEADD impassioned about religious freedom and able to articulate her point of view. I think it was a very valuable educational experience for her.
Naz B of LEADD alumni 2007 -  Note She returned as a junior counselor for LEADD Tampa fall 2008
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Thank you! Both of my girls used the LEADD experience in their college essays. Both of them feel blessed by the experience of meeting and sharing their thoughts and feelings on such an intimate level, knowing that they were both safe and respected. Attending LEADD has helped form them as young women. Who really knows what that means? In years to come, they will truly understand the enormity of their experiences.
In Peace,
Karen H  LEADD 07 Parent
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LEADD was a transformative experience for our daughter.  She brought back with her the concrete experience of having connected deeply with kids from the full spectrum of backgrounds and beliefs.  She returned equipped with those best of power tools--humor and empathy--to resist intolerance in all its forms.  And she forged wonderful friendships with the other students in the Fresno delegation, many of whom have become allies in the local interfaith debate.  The experience changed, strengthened, and inspired her--we're very grateful she had the opportunity to participate.
Paul P- LEADD- 07 Parent
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The camp appears to have made quite an impression on Elliot.  He really enjoyed lobbying his congress people.  We are very grateful for the vocabulary you gave Elliot to understand more in depth about issues we feel very strongly about.  We will keep you posted about what Elliot does with all he learned.  But, we think some of the impact of the camp experience is not even measurable.  Elliot raves on and on about the camp.  You all have done such a terrific job.  Thank you so much!
Peggy S LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Greetings from Becca’s Mom. Watching the Olympics catching up with all my e-mails....I'm not a computer person. Just wanted to thank you for all your e-mails/up-dates and let you know that Becca tells me she loved her time with all of you. Hope the rest of your summer is great!!! Thanks again for everything
Sue LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Thank you to you and all of the LEADD Staff.  Bryan remained in Washington DC for a couple of extra days to look at some colleges.  I cannot wait to talk with him about his plan.  Thank you for offering this opportunity to such a variety of students.  I cannot wait to go through all of the pictures.  I appreciate all of the work that you have done.
Elizabeth S- LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Thanks to you and your team's great efforts! Jaspreet didn't want to come home until the last of his friends had left :) I have never seen him get this affected after a camp. He is missing his friends SO much. He kept showing us the camp pictures from his cell phone (we forgot to give him a camera).
Gagan N- LEADD DC 08 Parent
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I just got home from Turkey late last night (on a very interesting interfaith mission of my own!) and Marjorie met me at the airport… she has had many, many opportunities for travel & learning, yet I have NEVER seen her so full of enthusiasm & passion as she is about LEADD. Thanks to you and all of the Staff for what is clearly an exceptional learning & living experience. I know she has BIG plans & will keep you all posted!
Sincerely,
Cynthia C- LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Yes, Matthew was exhausted, but also exuberant about his experience.  He seemed to really bond with several of the kids from different religious backgrounds and luckily at least a couple are in CA.  We (my husband Bill and I) REALLY appreciated the updates...kept us from needing to check in personally with Matthew and gave us insight into the group.  Will look forward to the last group of pics.  Thanks so much for getting him to the plane on time.  I will definitely be recommending the program to some other stars from our synagogue.
I hope in the pics somewhere there are pics of all of you.  Had the pleasure of meeting Denny and her husband, but that was it of the names of folks I've corresponded with.  Would love to have some faces to go with the names.
Keep up the great work and thanks again,
Laura- LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Thanks so much for your faithfulness to keeping us in touch with their experience. Maddie is sad to be home.  She talked all the way back from the airport about lifelong friendships she created and all that she learned about pluralism, the history of religious diversity, the first amendment, her meeting with legislative staff, her excitement about her action plan... and on and on.  Usually I just hear about the fun, but she was just as jazzed about the learning.  It was all good.  She was very impressed with the whole program, as I have been, watching from a distance through your photos.  Again, thanks for all the work you do to bring them out there, to keep the whole thing organized and stress free for them and us, and to give them an experience which they will not forget and which will lead them to great things in their lives.
Ann H- LEADD DC 08 Parent
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Thank -You a million times for the opportunity for Victoria to participate in the LEADD experience......She arrived back home late this morning and immediately hit the sack......she was sooooooo tired from all the events and conferences.....awoke to eat/drink and then went back to sleep.....we'll talk about everything tomorrow and about all the wonderful new friends she made....I can't thank -you enough and we certainly will recommend LEADD to others. Sincerely, Leisha H LEADD DC 08 Parent
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The thanks and accolades belong to you folks. We are so grateful for the program and the opportunity for Hannah to participate. She reports that it was a most amazing time with some extraordinary people. She says she learned so much, not just about other people and processes, but also about herself. I'm sure it will take some time for the full magnitude of the experience to be absorbed. Hannah reports already missing her new friends and wished to program could have gone another week at least. In short, I think this has been a life changing experience for her.
She has been asked to write an article about the experience for the Indianapolis Peace and Justice newspaper, and perhaps one of the local papers will publish her story as well. If you might grant the use of a few photos that would be wonderful. Hannah said her camera quit working after three shots.

Thank you so much, I look at those beautiful kids and feel greater hope for the future. What you are doing is so important and as tired as you must be, it was worth all the effort!
Karen L- LEADD DC 08 Parent

 

Learn More!

Our August, 2012 LEADD in Grand Rapids, Michigan was featured in the local news, click here to read the article! Click here for more information on what a LEADD training could look like in your community.

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