FRISCO - Aaron Raye and Daniel Szczechowksi were fed up. The juniors at Lone Star High School in Frisco wanted to create unity in a time where a lot of the country is divided.
"It got to a point where it was just tiring," Szczechowksi said.
So the two decided to do something about it. They founded The Bridge, an after school club. This is how it's described in The Bridge's Twitter bio: " A conversation club where we discuss different social issues in a friendly environment. We encourage diversity to create understanding and unity."
"When I first approached our administration they didn't know quite what to think." Raye said. "I had to explain it wasn't a debate club it's more about hearing people out."
Every Thursday, students stay after class. The school's physics teacher Paulses Kollie sponsors the club and says it's been rewarding to watch the students delve into tough conversations with respect. They discuss topics ranging from economic divides to public education and race.
"These are the subjects that can be tough to talk about but we lay out our expectations for conduct right away," Szczechowksi said.
During one of The Bridge's latest meeting, the group was diverse. Students from different religious backgrounds and political affiliations did the unthinkable, they facilitated a respectful conversation for more than an hour.
"It's been encouraging to see how my classmates conduct themselves," Raye said.
The founders say The Bridge isn't about getting people to agree, rather it's about people understanding and listening to different perspectives on important topics. The recipe seems to be working and adults are taking note. Last week, parents started their own version. Aaron's mom, Gigi Shamsy Raye, hosted the first event at her house.
"I told a friend of mine about what Aaron was doing and he said why don't you do that with adults," Raye said.
Like the students' meeting, the adults gathering were diverse. Parents talked about religion, bullying and politics while modeling the format created by their children.
"I haven't ever shared like this before," Nadia Jones said. "Before this I would just blend in.".
Some of the parents were first generation Americans, others immigrants and others' families have been in United States for many generations. While the details of their stories were different, everyone seemed to find common ground when it came to a desire to improve the conversations and tone of dialog across the country.
"It gives you hope that people can talk to each other in a different way and find that respect," Mike Raye said.
While the founders of The Bridge started fed up, Raye and Szczechowksi say they're now full of something else, hope.
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