By Mark Abrams

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some 400 students from high schools throughout the Delaware Valley gathered in the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday for the Anti-Defamation League’s “Courageous Conversations” conference.

They came from 65 high schools from urban, suburban, and rural school districts with their teachers and chaperones. Their mission: confronting hate and bias through conversations.

“Some of these kids have never met students outside of their own community, or students who don’t look like them. So it’s an amazing experience to bring these kids together and see the interactions to see how many similarities there are,” said conference coordinator Lisa Friedlander, who also serves as the ADL’s Education Director for its “No Place For Hate” initiative.

She says during a variety of breakout sessions directed by moderators, the students addressed such topics as the rising tide of hate, fear mongering, and divisiveness in the country and culture.

“We want these kids to leave feeling empowered to go back to their schools to make positive change,” said Friedlander. “To teach their classmates how to be allies and to stand up for each other and become leaders in the school around the celebration of diversity and acceptance.”