High school students from across Nassau County attended the Human Rights Awareness Conference.

For the first time since the pandemic, high school students gathered at Adelphi to learn how to advocate for their rights and those of people of all races, cultures, religions and genders. 

On February 7, 2024, Adelphi once again welcomed high school students from across Nassau County to the Ruth S. Harley University Center for the Human Rights Awareness Conference.

Sarah Eltabib, associate teaching professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, presented the workshop “Global Human Rights Defenders in Action.”

This collaboration began in 2007 with the Adelphi University College of Education and Health Sciences and was held every year until it was discontinued due to the pandemic. After five years, the conference has returned, with the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) stepping up, in partnership with the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights (NCCHR), the first conference the College has co-sponsored. In addition to attending the conference, students could explore the Garden City campus and learn about Adelphi programs, such as Levermore Global Scholars and Artivism.

“Adelphi has been a staple in the community for a long time,” said Rodney McRae, executive director of the NCCHR. He explained that the conference gives students a place to get off their phones and meet in person to discuss important issues.

The conference attracted about 300 students from about 20 high schools, along with their teachers.

Maria Rivera, human relations representative of the NCCHR, said the conference “exposes the children to college life, and we share the same vision to try to help the community.”

Argie Agelarakis, adjunct faculty, introduced attendees to the Artivism initiative.

The conference began with a continental breakfast and a welcome speech by Susan Briziarelli, PhD, associate provost for faculty support and global affairs and interim director of Levermore Global Scholars. Her remarks were followed by Artivism: The Power of Art for Social Transformation, presented by Stephanie Lake, PhD, associate teaching professor and interim chair of sociology, Argie Agelarakis, MA ’00, adjunct faculty member, and student leader River Gorman.

Artivism is about activism through art, and how art can be used for self-expression or to fight for human rights. “I think that high school students are at an age where they can start thinking about human rights and fighting for injustices in the world, and that can be a good starting point for their activism through the rest of their lives,” said Gorman.

High School Students Speak

The students were able to attend three out of the nine workshops offered, so every student had the opportunity to learn something different and share with their fellow classmates. During the LGS workshop “Global Human Rights Defenders in Action,” presented by Sarah Eltabib, associate teaching professor, high school students gave examples of important qualities that leaders should have. “LGS creates those leaders of change to be the human rights defenders at the University and beyond the University,” Professor Eltabib said. And while it is extremely important for high school students to be learning the roots of human rights, she believes that it should be taught to kids even younger.

Through this workshop and others like it, high school students connected with students from other schools and shared ideas.

Ariel Boodhram, an 11th-grader from Mepham High School, said, “I think it’s important that everybody learns inclusivity because it’s taught in high schools, but to learn about it in this big group atmosphere, and learning about (inclusivity) from different perspectives, it helps us to relate to it more and be more aware of what’s going on in the world.”

Danya Zaidi, another 11th-grader from Mepham High School, said that some schools may be less diverse than others, and the conference gave students the opportunity to share perspectives. She said, “I think it’s important [for high school students to attend] because although past generations have built the platform for us, we need to grow that platform more and be able to have more diversity and inclusivity in our schools and in our own community.”

The day ended with a special performance by two students, ninth-grader Liam O’Farrell and 10th-grader Sierra McDaniel, as Walt Whitman and Bell Boyd meeting in the afterlife. Maria Cristina Zaccarini, PhD, professor of history, said, “The performance shows the way that Adelphi helps students make their course content — in this case, the life of Walt Whitman — meaningful to their own lives. The character of the student expresses frustration with thinking that there is no value in studying a person who lived over 100 years ago, but the dialogue suggests that there is a human connection that persists despite the passage of time.”

Due to the success of this year’s conference, the College of Arts and Sciences is looking forward to co-sponsoring the conference next year as well.

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