Press Release: April 25, 2022

TAP is Merging With BridgeUSA

Expanding on its initiative to bring high school students into the political discussion.

April 25, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO — BridgeUSA is announcing the latest incorporation of The Acceptance Project into the BridgeUSA network to further its mission of engaging America’s youth in constructive political dialogue.

The Acceptance Project (TAP) was founded in 2017 by Taha Vahanvaty when he was in 8th grade. Following the 2016 presidential election, his school district, Stroudsburg Area School District, saw a sharp uptick in verbal, physical, and online incivility. For this reason, Vahanvaty created The Acceptance Project, a club designed to foster constructive discourse grounded in the lived experiences of his peers. Through TAP, students are provided with the space and opportunity to engage across their differences through productive conversation.

This April, TAP’s 10 existing chapters will be added to BridgeUSA’s High School community, and their leaders will work with BridgeUSA to strengthen and grow their bridge-building efforts. By joining these two communities, BridgeUSA is expanding its high school initiative to engage students who are passionate about bridging our political divides through empathy and productive conversation.

After four years of facilitating dialogues on issues such as police accountability, gender identity and cancel culture, Vahanvaty decided to expand his initiative to other schools in his community. As a result, in 2021 he launched “TAP Into Summer” (TAPIS), a one-week, all expenses paid, dialogue intensive summer camp hosted at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania. Through the program, 15 students from across nine different school districts were equipped with leadership and facilitation skills to start and run TAP chapters at their own high schools.

“By empowering students with the means to facilitate difficult conversations, we can lay the foundation for youth-led peacebuilding across the country,” said Taha Vahanvaty, Founder of TAP. “Over the last five years, I have watched TAP grow from a simple after-school club to a full-fledged organization with the mission of creating a new generation of empathetic leaders, active listeners, and critical thinkers. Bridging forces with BridgeUSA is the next step toward achieving this mission on a national scale.”

Emily Garcia, Director of Youth Engagement at BridgeUSA, has worked closely with Taha to connect TAP’s 10 existing chapters and their members into the Bridge High School network.  

“In my time working on this initiative with Taha, it’s been exciting to see his commitment to improving campus culture and engaging his peers,” said Emily. “He’s left us with a group of dedicated and optimistic high schoolers who are eager to improve our political dialogue. We’re excited to connect with more of these students and expand opportunities on campus for discussion.”

Vahanvaty will attend American University as a freshman this Fall. He will remain a part of BridgeUSA’s network as an advisor to the high school program. “It pleases me to know that my passion for bridge building will always have a place and a purpose at BridgeUSA,” he said.

“BridgeUSA is a place for young people to make a difference in their communities, so when we meet other students who are passionate about this work and have initiatives of their own, it’s very encouraging,” said Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA. “Taha has done great work bringing students into the conversation with TAP and growing its community. We’re looking forward to expanding on that foundation and wish him the best as he enters his next chapter.”

BridgeUSA added high school chapters to its network in August 2021. By doing so, we are creating a pipeline from the beginning of high school to end of college for students to practice constructive discourse and engage across lines of difference.

Read more about TAP in the news, here.

To learn more about BridgeUSA High School click here

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