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Our Inspiration: Lili Rachel Smith

Laura Talmus and Ace Smith founded Beyond Differences to remember and honor their daughter, Lili (1994 - 2009).

Like many adolescents, Lili suffered from social isolation. She wasn’t bullied or teased, but she was often treated as if she were invisible.

 

We now know that social isolation is an experience felt by thousands and thousands of youth across America. And what we’ve learned from working directly with young people is that a great many are inherently kind and compassionate and want to do the right thing. After all, middle school can and should be a great experience.

In October 2009, Lili passed away unexpectedly in her sleep. The outpouring of grief was enormous. Lili's short and inspiring life, particularly her brave efforts to overcome social isolation, serves as a guiding light for other children, adolescents, and families. The film Lili's Story: Breaking Down the Walls of Social Isolation is still a middle school favorite.

Since Lili’s passing, we’ve been working to change the student culture in schools and online to make everyone feel included, no matter their differences. Our innovative programs have worked to end social isolation in middle schools and high schools across the country.

Learn how you can join our movement, as a student, faculty, or parent.

Learn more about Lili

National Programs

Know Your Classmates

Our innovative national programs have inspired a cultural and behavioral shift at middle schools and high schools across the country. Join our movement to end social isolation by bringing one or all of these programs to your school.

Know Your Classmates is Beyond Differences' initiative co-sponsored with the Islamic Networks Group (ING) designed to explore middle school youth's identity and belonging, understand traditions, and recognize stereotypes. Multi-cultural and multi-faith backgrounds are common in today's schools and Know Your Classmates is speaking honestly with children about their feelings and experiences with one another. Know Your Classmates Day is Friday, October 20, 2017!

No One Eats Alone

No One Eats Alone™ teaches everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day. Created and organized by students, this is our most popular program where schools in all 50 United States participate! National No One Eats Alone Day is Friday, February 10, 2017.

Call It Out Day

Call It Out is a powerful engagement program for middle school youth, their teachers and families. Focused on creating inclusive communities online, particularly learning to respond to digital gossip to reduce social isolation, National Call It Out Day is April 28, 2017.

All of our programs encourage taking the pledge to never exclude others, reaching out to someone new, and spreading the word that inclusion is cool!

  

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