Community Wide Dialogue at MPH

Students from Syracuse’s Henninger High School traveled to our campus on Monday to spend the day with their MPH counterparts — a number of Upper School students who are involved in the Community Wide Dialogue (CWD) program that began early in the fall. The program is facilitated by Interfaith Works, with Ms. LaPointe and Mr. Mangram serving as its primary program advisors for MPH.
According to Ms. LaPointe, the Community Wide Dialogue School Exchange Program aims to bring together people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. Students from one city school and one suburban school come together to understand and address misconceptions about race and ethnicity. Through facilitated dialogue and interactive activities, the goal is to spark conversations, diffuse tensions, break down stereotypes, and build bridges of understanding among participants. MPH has been a participant in this program for many years and values the goals of the program.
Monday morning began in the theater with a large-group ice-breaker game (“The Wild Wind Blows…”) that resembled a modified version of musical chairs but in reality served to illuminate the commonalities among us all. The full group then watched a brief but powerful video called Silent Beats, which captures a scene — a few dramatic minutes in time – that includes just three people, during which we see flashes of each person’s thoughts, memories, and past experiences. It becomes evident that these are things that have shaped his/her biases and consequently explain his/her interactions with and body language toward the other two people. CWD participants debriefed the film in small groups, each comprising students from both schools.
The Henninger students were invited to then shadow their MPH counterparts in classes, after which there was another large-group session and lunch. MPH participants will experience a similar shadow day at Henninger later this winter.

More About CWD (from

Since 1976, Interfaith Works has been developing the capacity for cross-cultural dialogue leading to community action and/or public policy change. IFW first began building bridges of understanding when a handful of faith communities gathered for open dialogue. In 1995, IFW initiated the Community Wide Dialogue designed to bring Central New York community members together to discuss and take action on a variety of complex problems facing our community. The Community-Wide Dialogue to End Racism—now the longest running dialogue of its kind in the nation—grew out of these initial dialogue circles. Twenty years later more than 10,000 individuals have participated in more than 400 dialogue circles on racism. Hundreds of people have been trained to facilitate the circles and have spread these skills far and wide throughout our community. The program has grown from an all-adult project to now encompass elementary, middle, and high schools; teen youth groups; college students among others.

The dialogue process builds the capacity of the whole community. Both facilitators of the dialogue circles and community members learn methods of constructive engagement that inform public policy and community problem solving. InterFaith Works believes that that the dialogue process helps to develop a common ground on which people can stand, leading to lasting, positive change.