More than 300 high school students and teachers attended conference presented by Nassau County Commission on Human Rights.
With so much negativity and misunderstanding in the world, it can be difficult to believe that change can happen. However, one group not only believes it can effect change, but is also ready to take action—today’s youth.
“It’s a great way to bring high school students to campus around critical issues and they can then associate Adelphi with taking these issues seriously,” said Jane Ashdown, Ph.D., dean of the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education.More than 300 high school students and educators came to the Ruth S. Harley University Center at Adelphi University on February 6 for the 28th annual Human Rights Awareness Conference presented by the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights.
Students from the Sewanhaka High School Family and Career Community Leaders of America performed a skit addressing cyberbullying, a major problem among high school students. By simulating a TV newscast, students discussed several cyberbullying suicides, including one in West Islip, New York, in 2010.
“Part of our mandate is to bring people together and teach them,” said Daniel Russell, executive director of the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights. “We want to give [students] a better understanding of the human rights movement and give them a scope into what could go wrong.”
Held at Adelphi for the fifth consecutive year, Human Rights Awareness Day allowed students to meet their peers and address acts of intolerance in their communities. Students could attend three workshops of their choice, focusing on topics such as racial and gender stereotyping, human trafficking and religious intolerance. In one workshop, “The Global Day of Listening,” presented by the Student Civic Association of Bethpage High School, students talked via Skype with Afghan Peace Volunteers about issues of human rights and war. Because the workshop was so successful, Adelphi’s sociology department plans to incorporate it into its Changing Nature of War and Peace initiative.
“The kids really love it and we use it as a moment to reflect,” said Natalia McMillan, English teacher and Gay Straight Alliance adviser at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, New York. “The kids get a lot out of it and we bring ideas back to our club.”
Adelphi theater majors Tonille Watkis and Blake Wales and alumna Caitlin Belforti ’13 performed at the conference. The presentations poignantly highlighted topics ranging from racism to respect for the disabled.
Human rights advocates at the conference hope students understand that to create a better world, students must take an active role in eliminating stereotypes and promoting acceptance among their peers.
“We are here to provide the framework for how they can take action in their communities,” said Yana Kusayeva ‘08, president and executive director of Dialogue Beyond Borders, a human rights group based in Garden City, New York. “We give them the tools to plan actions and get them to see solutions and be change makers.”
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