Opening words by Cheats

Over the course of of my life there have been a handful of moments/decisions/experiences that I credit as life changing; a single experience that influenced how I see the world and the values I hold dear.  Of course, there are factors that I had no control over – the character and values of my parents and siblings – the loving and supportive environment I was born into – I was just blessed and fortunate in those regards – but there were other decisions, some I knew would be significant – like enlisting in the Marine Corps after high school – and others that I had no clue would still have a strong hold on me today – like attending a four day summer camp when I was 14 years old called Metrotown Institute. Twenty years later Metrotown is now called the Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute and I can say – without a doubt – that being a part of that experience, from very first camp held at St. Christopher School in 1993, to today that it has been one of the most life changing and powerful experiences of my life. It has helped shape my values and character, and along the way I have met some great friends and life-long mentors.

The Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute teaches high school student leaders about diversity and inclusion. It sounds simple but trust me it’s hard work. I remember being 14 years old, the last thing I was thinking about during the summer of my freshman and sophomore year was how I could make my high school more inclusive and tolerant. Through Connections, I learned community building skills and values that are still with me today – values I apply in every aspect of my life – including The Cheats Movement Blog. The most principled being: unity and inclusion will always triumph over division and exclusion.

Over the next few days, I will post message from other fellow Connections Institute graduates reflecting on their experience and 20 years of the  program in an effort to raise awareness for our “20/20 Campaign: A Vision for a More Inclusive Virginia”. I will lead this effort with a message from  Jonathan Zur, the President and CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communicates. Please take a look at the VCIC website and get familiar with not just Connections Institute but all the amazing programs done throughout the year. It really is life changing. WE SEE IT!

Jonathan Zur

Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute

It has been described by program graduates as “life changing,” “powerful,” and “the most meaningful experience of their lives.”

Back in 1993, community leaders in Richmond launched a new effort to help high school students learn about the diversity around them and build skills to foster inclusion in their schools.  Program leaders promoted it as more than just another camp or summer learning experience.  By all accounts, they were right.

For twenty years, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute (known in its early years as the Metrotown Institute) has helped students to break barriers, learn effective strategies to deal with biased behavior, and develop action plans to reduce prejudice in their schools.  What started as a weeklong experience in Richmond has developed into a body of programming that reaches thousands of students and adults across Virginia each year.  And program alumni are sharing what they have learned locally, nationally, and around the world.

Indeed, this program has been a catalyst for twenty years, helping participants move from awareness to action as they continue on their journeys through life.   To celebrate this anniversary, alumni and friends are participating in the “20/20 Campaign: A Vision for a More Inclusive Virginia” to raise funds to sustain the program’s future.

The Cheats Movement and VCIC invited program alumni from the Richmond area to share their reflections.  Over the next few days you will see these reflections on The Cheats Movement Blog.

Metrotown 1993 Metrotown Institute Inaugural Class – 1993 – Bottom right – 1st row Cheats


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