A group of 60 Jacksonville teens are graduating today from a program celebrating their differences.
The University of North Florida’s OneJax Institute holds the summer program called Metrotown, which exposes students to different perspectives.
Students of various races, socioeconomic background and sexual orientation were selected for the program.
Adult community members such as teachers, clergy members or parents sponsored the students to be part of the program. Student leader Eli Heard got involved because of her father, who she said has been a part of the program for 25 years.
On the final day, they burned a pile of negative labels. During the ceremony, program volunteer Yvonne Mitchell reminded them to bring what they’re learning into the real world.
“It is our goal to have assisted each of you with broadening your view of the world and embracing your power to make a difference,” Mitchell said.
Student leader Jordan Bartfield described the program as “life-changing” and said that it brought her greater confidence. Her friend, another student leader, Cassie Harmon-Fuller agreed and said she thinks the participants bring what they learn to the high schools, benefiting the whole community.
OneJax holds the program every summer and a condensed version called Metrotown-In-a-Day during the school year.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with Yvonne Mitchell's correct title.