High school students from across Long Island gathered at Adelphi University for a day promoting human rights, sensitivity and respect for people of all races, religions, cultures, ages and genders.
High school students from across Long Island gathered at Adelphi University on Thursday, February 1, for a day promoting human rights, sensitivity and respect for people of all races, religions, cultures, ages and genders at the 32nd Annual Human Rights Awareness Conference, “Your Human Rights Are My Responsibility.”
The Nassau County Human Rights Commission and Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education collaborated on the event, which welcomed 300 high school seniors and juniors representing 20-plus Nassau County school districts. The day started with a keynote speech by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and a welcome from Anne Mungai, Ph.D., interim dean of the Ammon School.
“I hope that all the students will learn to respect all people and how to negotiate issues that arise about diversity,” said Dr. Mungai, who told the students that they must be 21st-century leaders who understand human rights and dignity. “This conference should help change attitudes towards others.”
Dr. Mungai said that Adelphi could become a future university for many of the students, adding, “We are a university that supports our students until we see them graduate. We have open-door policies, great advisers and great programs.”
The day continued with multiple workshops. They included: “Addressing the Mental Health Gap in the LGBTQ+ Community,” presented by Peer Navigators at Pride for Youth; “Interacting With the Police,” presented by Nassau County police officer Joseph Monez; “Targeted Teens: Discrimination and Diversity in Our Schools,” presented by students of Wellington C. Mepham High School’s School and Community Leadership, advised by Jacqueline Geller; “Students United for Safe Schools (SUSS),” presented by Kara Santucci from Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS); “The Power of Symbols Deconstructing Hate,” presented by Helen Turner from the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County; “Immigrant Youth on Long Island: Do They Have Rights?” presented by Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Silvia Pastor Finkelstein, J.D., director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs; “LGBT+ Around the World,” presented by the students of the Wheatley High School’s Gender Identity Sexual Orientation Acceptance Club, advised by Birthe Seferian; and “Addressing Racism,” presented by Ammon School Assistant Dean Patrice Armstrong-Leach from the Adelphi University Diversity Committee.
The day concluded with a performance of Now You See Me/Now You Hear Me, an original dramatic piece created by six Adelphi theater majors—Carson Ferguson, Rachel Hernstat, Crystal Hernandez, Billy Meurer, Brianna Carella and senior Isuri Wijesundara, who co-directed with Maggie Lally ’82, an associate professor in the Department of Theatre. The performance was a multimedia presentation created by the ensemble, addressing issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The performers wrote monologues based on personal experiences to highlight different aspects of sexual abuse and harassment.
“The message is ‘We’re listening and we believe you,'” explained Lally, who is invited every year to create an original piece on a social justice issue that resonates with her theater students. “We hope students left with a clearer understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and assault and will seek out help if they are a survivor; and if they are a potential perpetrator (unwittingly, because of ignorance) now they have the knowledge to avoid doing so.”
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