December 2023 Update from Pollyanna
The following opening letter is from Marcus, one of our Pollyanna Teen Council leaders.
December 2023
Dear Friend,
On November 18, Pollyanna hosted a special online Teen Council meeting: Ways to Respond to Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Extreme Views in Your School. The Teen Council leaders crafted questions and conducted the interview. We welcomed guests Jason Craige Harris, a conflict mediator, and Elizabeth Rosner, author of three novels, a poetry collection, and Survivor Café, which examines intergenerational trauma stemming from the Holocaust and other historical atrocities As a high school student trying to find ways to combat the stress and fear stemming from the current Israel-Hamas war as well as other major political events, I found this meeting to be calming and extraordinarily helpful. 
Although these events are taking place halfway across the world, many teens feel powerless. We asked about coping strategies. Ms. Rosner validated our feelings, connecting our anxiety over seemingly distant issues to her understanding of how trauma in our family’s histories can still affect us today. Mr. Harris explained that although there is only so much we can practically do, we always have control over ourselves and our responses, including our responses to people espousing extreme or bigoted views. While we may not be able to change their views, we can remain composed and firm in ours. As he put it, “Small actions add up!” 
As a leader of the Teen Council, I found this advice comforting because it connects to the purpose of our meetings. Our individual power is inherently limited, but together, our voices can lead to change in our schools and communities. 
We also asked our guests about ways to avoid misinformation about the conflict. They advised us to rely on reputable news sources, to be aware of the “spin” of any given article, to consider carefully who the views presented might serve, and to be wary of generalizations, oversimplification, and dehumanizing language. As it is nearly impossible for any article to present a full view of a situation as complicated as this one, and all articles contain bias, they advised us to read and consider multiple sources with different viewpoints and political perspectives
In a last bit of advice, our guests cautioned against allowing our grief to lead us to adopt a knee-jerk “us vs. them” mentality and counseled against applying labels to people because those labels can become vehicles for dehumanization. They suggested, instead, that we look for the bits of positive news arising from the conflict, such as Israelis and Palestinians working together to foster communication and understanding.
This meeting beautifully illustrated the purpose of the Teen Council: students, guided by experienced adults, lifting each other up and creating a space in which change, growth, and discussion are not only permitted but encouraged. 
On behalf of the Pollyanna Teen Council
Happening Now
10th Workshop Added
We are convening a special 10th workshop for our Workshop Series 2023-24 registrants. Join us for a conversation with mediator Jason Craige Harris and author Elizabeth Rosner. The two workshops that have taken place were recorded and may be viewed at your convenience. This series is one price per school for all employees. Sign up for our Workshop Series 2023-24!
Advancement Teams
Join David Smith on December 6 at 12PM ET / 9AM PT for "Aligning your School's Advancement and DEIB Goals." In this workshop, participants will examine four key areas of school advancement programs through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. David will also provide a framework for participants to assess their institution's approach to fundraising, alumni relations, events, and volunteer management. The hour-long session will be conducted over Zoom and will be recorded for convenient viewing later. Click here to see the schedule, descriptions and to register your school. One price per school for all employees.
Far Brook Hosts 8th Pollyanna Conference
Community: The Power of Empathy in Action brought together 13 independent NJ schools to focus on creating stronger communities. Schools aspire to ensure that each person feels a true sense of belonging because we know this creates the best learning environment for students and prepares them to be engaged citizens in life. Author, Charles Vogl, joined as keynote and shared insights from his extensive research and book, The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging.
NAIS PoCC - We're in St. Louis!
We are thrilled to be a sponsor of Club PoCC...and attend and exhibit at this year's People of Color Conference. This year’s theme—Gateways to Freedom: A Confluence of Truth, Knowledge, Joy, and Power—calls us to converge from different paths to a common journey of truth, knowledge, joy, and power. We hope to see you. Be sure to stop by the Pollyanna table and say hello.
December's Teen Council Meetup
We are excited to welcome Manuela Veloso to December's Council meeting. She is a world-renowned expert in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), Dr. Manuela Veloso was a professor in the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University. She took a leave of absence to be head of artificial intelligence research at JPMorgan Chase. In this role, she has applied AI to problems in economics, data management, and gender equity. Sign up to join us on December 10 at 12PM PT / 3PM ET on Zoom.
Legacy of Impact
As Pollyanna celebrates our 8th year, we are filled with immense pride reflecting on our journey. Since our inception in 2015, we've made significant strides toward realizing our mission of cultivating stronger communities. Together, this is the impact that we have accomplished.

If you haven’t given yet, please help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 before our year ends on December 31 by making a tax-deductible contribution to Pollyanna.
Reach Out if We Can Be of Help with Your DEIB Planning for 2024
Pollyanna advances systemic change by developing stronger communities.
Pollyanna works with academic and other institutions to achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Through its unique conference models, discussion platforms, and racial literacy curricula, Pollyanna increases cultural competence.
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