It's OK to be Different
 
 

Our Mission:

To comprehensively foster Empathy, Understanding, and Kindness in all children

 
 
 
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Our Mission

"Teaching empathy and respect in elementary schools is an essential priority. If we begin with very young children who are instinctively more sensitive than adults and who aren't reluctant to express their true feelings, then we will be far more successful in our efforts to fight racism and discrimination, than if we delay teaching empathy and respect until they are "old enough" or worse still, leave it to chance."

- Laraine Gaunt, Creator & Director, It's OK to be Different

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Our Impact

Often asked about the impact that our program has had on the children and communities that we have served, we like to answer with the stories and testimonials of those that we have impacted.

Mrs. Gaunt’s central message is that all people are basically the same. Everyone wants and deserves to be loved and accepted for who they are. The impact of this amazing program has taught my whole household to be kinder and more compassionate.
-Chloe Hoban, former student and UPstander Club member

26+

schools and community organizations served

 

40+

Years Serving communities

 
 

15+

Thousand children Impacted


Nothing we could have done would have contributed more to the open, positive and inclusive atmosphere of our school.
— Chris Halpin, Principal, Navesink School
 

Our Programs

It's OK to be Different is one of the most in-depth tools for teaching empathy and kindness in elementary and middle schools and is incredibly rich and unique. It is a comprehensive, flexible program featuring six literature based units that are easily woven into the curriculum in age appropriate succession

 

Building Friendships: Be a Buddy Not a Bully

(Pre-K/Kindergarten)

This unit sets the stage for the rest of the It's OK units but can be presented on its own. Through exceptional children's literature, interactive activities and meeting people who relate their personal experiences, children learn what it takes to have a friend, be a good friend and how to handle teasing and bullying.  Be a Buddy Not a Bully demonstrates respect for individual differences and encourages inclusiveness.
 

Understanding Disabilities  

(1st/2nd Grades)

This unit is designed to give students a greater awareness and appreciation of individual differences. By exposing students to the realities of various physical disabilities through powerful empathy-building exercises, they are given a sense of the daily challenges disabled people meet. Children have the opportunity to experience what some of the disabilities may be like and meet community members who live with them.

Respect For Different Learners  

(2nd/3rd Grades)

This unit is designed to give students a greater awareness and appreciation of individual differences. By exposing students to the realities of various disabilities through powerful empathy-building exercises, they are given a sense of the daily challenges disabled people meet. Children have the opportunity to experience what some of the disabilities may be like and meet community members who live with them.

Celebrating Cultures  

(3rd/4th Grades)

This unit continues to reinforce the philosophical idea that personal exposure to individual differences in people leads to understanding of racial and ethnic differences. Celebrating Cultures addresses discrimination in a powerful yet age appropriate manner. Students learn to recognize the stereotypes and harmful pre-judgements that have been made about differences. Specific references to being treated differently demonstrate that discrimination is wrong.
 

Courage To Care 

(5th thru 8th Grades)

For this unit, students go beyond understanding that there is injustice in the world - they learn they can make a difference and are provided with "UPstander" training. They are taught the skills necessary to stand up to peer pressure and discrimination by exploring events in history that depict the struggle for human rights and identify activists and heroes who had the courage to fight for the rights of others even when it was not their own personal struggle. Students tackle basic human rights, gender equality and race relations.

Embracing the LGBT Community 

(6th - 8th Grades)

In this unit, students are introduced to the various terms within the LGBT community. The intent is to help students gain an understanding of the community members while having an open mind. This will help reduce and prevent inappropriate language while fostering a positive environment.  Students are also provided with training on how to be a friend and ally to members of this community. The unit begins with an opening presentation designed to help students understand the differences between gender identity, sexual orientation, biological gender and gender expression which are often confused with one another. 

 
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february 2019

“Empathy can have a domino effect for positive change.” “Through this program, I learned how to be kind to people and respect people who are not like the majority. This program has impacted me since then. Even at a young age, I was blown away by this program … I never looked at the world in that way.”

Chloe Hoban / Read Full Article

 

Get Involved

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Making a difference in the community by fostering empathy, understanding, and kindness is as simple as getting involved with It’s OK to be Different. Whether it be adopting a program for your school or community organization, making a monetary donation or assisting in an upcoming event, your desire to help will make an impact on our mission.

 

Sign Up For a Program

With six comprehensive and flexible programs to adopt, we have one that will serve all age groups through middle school

Volunteer opportunities

Whether your interest is in education, fundraising, or marketing, we have wonderful volunteer opportunities available

sign up for the upstanders club

Monmouth County has a new club that aims to help middle and high school students be empowered to bring positive support to the community called the UPstander Club. A natural extension of our program, Courage to Care, where students learn the difference between being a Bystander vs. an UPstander, the concept for the Upstander Club emerged.

The objective of the club is for the teenagers to learn the skills required to be an UPstander from local activists, teach the skill of empathy, which is the foundation for all Upstanders, to younger students, and create opportunities within the community to have their voices heard and implement change.