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IrvintonDiversity.org a role model for the nation

Millions of school children across the nation have been the victim of bullying over the years. Last night I attended a function sponsored by the Irvington Diversity Foundation with over 700 other parents,  children and community leaders. This event was amazing. Every school district in Greenburgh, the county, state and nation should follow the example of Irvington---constantly making students aware that bullying is unacceptable(www.IrvingtonDiversity.org).

 

Schools and communities that are supportive of diversity can make a positive difference in combatting prejudice, hate, bigotry and bullying.  At the event last night the Irvington Diversity Foundation highlighted the fact that bullying includes but is not limited to harassment, discrimination based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnicity, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. Cyberbullying is defined as harassment or bullying which takes place through any form of electronic communication.

 

A highlight of the event was a performance by 15 year old Julianna Padilla. She is a stutterer and is involved in an organization called The Stuttering Association for the Young. She had a very difficult time speaking to those assembled last night. But she could sing  beautifully. Never realized that those who stutter and find it difficult to talk use a different part of their brain when they sing. The following link was found on You Tube.

Put your Hands up by Julianna Padillla

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUSOzY2YB00

  Steve Weatherford of the New York Giants talked about his own disabilities and how he turned his disabilities into an opportunity to become one of the nations top athletes. People who bullied him years ago could be the same people asking for his autograph today!   Students and teachers from Irvington and the surrounding area performed at the event. Irvington Police Chief Cerone and Detective Toolan talked about what Irvington is doing to fight bullying.  Joe Girardi, manager of the NY Giants spoke (video) commending Irvington for their efforts.   I will be writing to school districts in Greenburgh urging them to do what the Irvington Diversity Foundation has been doing. I have also asked the IDF to provide the town with copies of some of the video's shown last night featuring Irvington students --so we can share them on our Greenburgh public access TV station. I will also be writing to the United States Secretary of Education and will ask that the federal government salute the IDF for their outstanding work.   The following is a brief summary of the work the Irvington Diversity Foundation has done since 2010. Michael Zeldes is the President and founder of the IDF. He is succeeding in making Irvington a model for all communities around the nation where understanding and acceptance of diversity is a top priority. The Executive Director of the IDF is Jennifer Ruoff.  PAUL FEINER     HIGHIGHTS OF IRVINGTON DIVERSITY FOUNDATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS August 2010 A Plan of action is developed by IMS Principal David Sottile, IHS Principal Scott Mosenthal and District Director of Pupil Personnel Services, Scott Palermo with the help of fellow Diversity Task Force Members including Police Chief Michael Cerone, Mayor Brian Smith, Residents Mike Zeldes, Pedro Ceron, Carlos Berreto, Robin powell and Julia Wexler. The plan was created after the Task force held six working sessions over that summer that included experts in the area of Diversity and Bullying programs for Public School systems.   September 2010: Anonymous Climate Surveys are completed by all students at IMS and IHS. Results showed depth of a problem administrators and parents did not contemplate.   Student filmmakers and World of Difference (WOD), (formerly ADL Club) members create a DVD for Connections Assemblies at IMS and IHS. DVD is shown to all MS and HS students and WOD members led small group discussions after the assembly.   DVD is then featured at Town Hall meetings in January and March of 2011. The ideas and plan for the Irvington Diversity Foundation is articulated to the community. $3200.00 is raised through individual donations. News 12 covers the first event.   Town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner is very impressed with the effort of students who created the DVD and recognize them formally with Certificates of Appreciation at a Public Town of Greenburgh Board meeting.   One IHS Student and member of WOD attended an all day symposium on Diversity in March 2011. IDF incorporates, March 2011.   Holocaust survivor spoke to 8th graders, April 2011. 8th graders visit the US Holocaust Museum.   Grants are sought and funded by the PTSA and IEF to pay for IMS and IHS faculty training in Restorative Practices and Facing History, Facing Ourselves. $22,000 is raised to conduct comprehensive training for faculty.   First Restorative Practices Training was held in June 2011 and trained 35 individuals to facilitate conferences.   Social Studies teachers from IMS and IHS get training on Facing History, Facing Ourselves in Summer 2011.   October 2011 all IMS and IHS Faculty members are trained on Restorative Practices at a Superintendents Day. Now all IMS and IHS faculty have learned the basic concepts of this powerful alternative dispute resolution program and can use it in the classroom not just for major offenses.   April 2012, Holocaust survivor speaks to 8th graders. Same students visit the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. April 21st, 2012 at 7PM, our fundraiser Come Together…Irvington Talent Rocks! sold out the Irvington Campus Theater (over 700 seats). There was an incredible line up of student, teacher and resident talent performing. Over 100 students in all. Dr. Mosenthal, Mr. Sottile, Dr. Kor were there and spoke, along with a video made of Mr. Lichtenwalner. Mayor Smith, Chief of Police Cerone and Detective Toolan also spoke about the dangers of bullying. Along with some incredible dancing and singing, we revealed new footage of students and teachers explaining how harassment to other because of something that makes them “different” is more hurtful than most people can realize. Part of the show introduced the community to the Dignity for all Students Act that makes providing a safe, harassment free learning environment mandatory and all incidents of biased related harassment will be reported to the NYS Education Department. The IDF raised $16,145.00 from this event. (Our expenses for the event and yearly insurance costs totaled $6,312.00 leaving a balance $9,833.00).   On May 22, 2012, world-renowned speaker Katie Koestner presented A Cyber World of Trouble to the Irvington and Rivertown communities. She spoke on internet safety and the dangers and consequences of cyberbullying. This presentation was sponsored by the IDF, PTSA, IEF and Temple Beth Abraham, Immaculate Conception Church and Church of St. Barnabus.   October 2012, The Bully Movie is brought to the Greenburgh Multiplex Cinema with a panel discussion afterwards. Sponsored by IDF, The Fusion Academy, Westchester Group Works and Center Lane.   January 17, 2013, the IDF sponsors the Bully movie screening at the Campus Theater for middle and high school students and the community. A panel discussion was held after the screening with our school administrators and local professionals.   April 2013, Holocaust survivor speaks to 8th graders and many parents and high school students. 8th grade visits Holocaust museum in Washington DC.   May 16, 2013, Emily Bazelon speaks on Bullying and Drama in the Age of Facebook. This presentation was sponsored by the IDF and the Rivertown Parents.   January 13, 2014, Coach Randy Nathan, national speaker and author on sports and bullying gives a workshop on bullying in sports to our student athletes.   March 3, 2014, A Discussion on Race led by Cindy Carnaghi and David Peters from the People’s Institute.    

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