Amanda Gorman Kicks Off ADL’s No Place for Hate® Back-to-School Event | Shalom Austin

Amanda Gorman Kicks Off ADL’s No Place for Hate® Back-to-School Event

Community News, The Jewish Outlook

Nov 23, 2021

Students Watching Amanda Gorman. Photo courtesy of ADL.

By Mike Ogulnick

On Wednesday, October 6, ADL welcomed the school year with its No Place for Hate® Back-to-School Kickoff event. Inaugural Poet and author, Amanda Gorman, headlined the virtual event. She engaged with students from across the country, each of whom participate in their school’s No Place for Hate student coalition and celebrated their efforts to create inclusive and safe campuses.

ADL Central Division Education Director, Jillian Bontke, initiated and led this national effort with the help of Austin’s BookPeople. “We are so grateful to BookPeople for being such an incredible local and national resource as an independent bookseller,” said Bontke. The first 550 schools to sign up for the Kickoff were sent a copy of Gorman’s new book, Change Sings, for their libraries. The program was generously supported by local organizations and foundations such as Shalom Austin, The Meyer Levy Charitable Trust and the Tocker Foundation.

All of ADL’s over 1,500 No Place for Hate campuses were invited and over 2,000 classrooms and participants attended. Gorman started the program by reading excerpts from her new book, Change Sings. “Her book is beautifully written and illustrated and full of hope and poetry,” explains Bontke.

ADL Change Sings

Change Sings. Photo courtesy of ADL

Gorman then answered questions from 10 students around the country. A fifth grader from Metairie, LA asked why she named her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman admitted that when she wrote the poem, she didn’t have a title. She pulled the title from a line in one of the verses that read, “That is the hill we climb, if only we dare it.” She liked this concept as the central point of reference, the idea that, as she explains, “whatever hill we climb, it is one that we can surmount it if we do it together.”

Other students asked questions about her presidential aspirations, another about what issue is most important to her and a third about how she fights for social justice. The highlight of the program was Gorman’s interaction with students. “We were so honored and excited to have Amanda Gorman with us,” said Bontke. “She is one of the most inspiring voices in our country today.” Pulling off a program with 10 students from around the country took the efforts of ADL Education Directors from around the country nationwide.

ADL Back to School Kick Off

Back-to-School Kickoff with Amanda Gorman. Photo courtesy of ADL.

In Central Texas alone, over 300 campuses were designated No Place for Hate campuses in the last school year, impacting more than 200,000 students. “No Place for Hate enables schools to build more inclusive environments through a student-centric approach,” said ADL Austin Regional Director Renee Lafair. “We are proud of the impact No Place for Hate has had on students and excited about the young lives the program will reach in the future.”

To view the ADL No Place for Hate Back-to-School Kickoff with Amanda Gorman, visit ADL’s YouTube page. ■

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