Students at Ridgewood High School were shown photos of young people with genetic disorders and told not to look away.
The unusual lessons are part of a new effort, called the Pearls Project, to promote tolerance and empathy in a school culture where being different can mean social exile. Ridgewood teachers developed it this year in partnership with Positive Exposure, a nonprofit group in New York City founded by Rick Guidotti, a fashion photographer.
“Genetic conditions are depicted as images of sickness and sorrow — it’s always a kid up against the wall in a doctor’s office,” Mr. Guidotti said. “The idea was to bring these gorgeous kids into a community that didn’t know them and create a more inclusive society. It’s our responsibility to steady our gaze to see beauty, and not look away because we’re told not to stare.”

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