A group of teenagers sat in a circle in the boardroom of Los Alamitos Unified School District on Monday to share dark secrets.
"I hated football players and cheerleaders. I thought they didn't have brains," Jordan Wood, 15, of Santa Ana told the group.
"I used to think all people in gangs were stupid," said Laticia Wilson, 16, of Gardenia.
The teens, students from Los Alamitos High School and Torrance's North High School, met at a diversity retreat where they were asked by school administrators to share prejudices they have for other people.
They discussed ethnic backgrounds and sexual preferences. They talked about gang members and skinheads.
More importantly, they learned the meaning of tolerance.
"Once I really got to know some gang members I realized I couldn't generalize and say, 'All people in gangs aren't smart,' " Wilson told her peers.
Wood said she came to a similar realization.
"A football player who sat next to me made the best grades in my class. Not only was he a jock, he was smart, and now he's one my best friends."
Mark Celestin, human relations coordinator for Los Alamitos School District, said the retreat was aimed at promoting awareness of "our uniqueness" as human beings.
Celestin said administrators at Torrance Unified School District heard about the diversity program at Los Alamitos High School and asked if the school would share the program with their students.
Los Alamitos started holding diversity retreats in 1994 after several students found hate fliers stuffed in their school lockers.
Though students acknowledged that prejudices exist in their schools, they agreed that young people are becoming more accepting of others.
"The fact that there are 40 of us in this room today working through it, I think, means we are getting closer to a solution," Wood said.