"ANYTOWNTM has given me hope for a world free of discrimination, and has taught me that I can be the change…when I go back into the real world, I will not hesitate to stand up for what’s right.”
-Haley Knapp, ANYTOWNTM Alumni 2008
The ANYTOWNTM program is at the core of Community Tampa Bay's mission of promoting dialogue and respect among all cultures, religions and races. As a youth leadership and diversity education program, the mission is to empower diverse groups of young people to create more inclusive and just schools and communities, where all individuals are treated with respect and understanding. The central objective of ANYTOWNTM is to enable youth to discover their potential to become leaders and to empower them to be positive role models in their schools, neighborhoods and communities.
ANYTOWNTM begins with a 5 day, 4 night residential stay at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. A select group of 60 teens, all high school age, are chosen to form a delegate class. All materials, transportation, food, and lodging are provided. The program includes a variety of experiences including: interactive workshops, presentations, discussion groups and other methods to confront prejudice, stereotypes, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, genocide, and other issues.
At ANYTOWNTM, delegates are freed from the ordinary pressures faced by students today and encouraged to appreciate their differences and discover common ground by working together to begin to address the roots of inter-group discord – one person at a time. At ANYTOWNTM, they develop understanding and acceptance of others (social and cultural competence) based on honesty, understanding and respect and a sense of social responsibility. The students live, socialize and dine alongside people who, at first glance, appear to be different from them and then build skills together to create a community that is inclusive and respectful of all people. This begins to equip the students with tools in the areas of cross-cultural communication and leadership, coalition building, and problem-solving, and prepares them to become advocates for inclusion upon their return to their schools and communities. Their return to the “real world” is facilitated by on-going mentoring, the development of action plans for community engagement, and additional training through the Be Intentional Institute.
Through skill-building workshops, testimonials, role plays, case-studies, discussions groups and team-building exercises, the delegates explore their own identities and have discussions in a safe environment about issues that divide their homes, schools, and communities. The lessons are challenging and at times uncomfortable, but each day’s theme is important. Demonstrating our agency commitment to youth/adult partnerships, the core of the program is delivered by trained volunteer counselors, ages 15-24 that have graduated from the program previously, shown evidence of leadership in their communities and are committed to an inclusive approach to their lives. Learning from peers is a powerful demonstration of the possibilities inherent in each delegate. Many counselors return year after year, eager to change the life of another youth. Counselors are supported in their roles by adult volunteers and co-directors. Again, modeling the diversity of our community, all of these individuals bring life and work experience, dedication and commitment to the program year after year.
The Be Intentional Institute (BII) follows the initial ANYTOWNTM week as a series of four workshops and six service learning projects annually, tailored to further cultivate the ANYTOWNTM graduates as inclusive youth leaders. The four workshops are: advocacy/dialogue, culture of diversity, conflict mediation and facilitation. The service learning opportunities include : Youth Spoken Word, International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, Hillsborough Youth Collaborative, FLY-Facilitating the Leadership of Youth, Principals Multicultural Advisory Committee, ANYTOWNTM Advisory Committee and/or Task Force and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
In the past 15 years, over 4000 youth have graduated from the program, creating a growing network of individuals who are committed to the ideals of respect and understanding for others.