EMS "Upstanders" Attend Leadership Conference
Eastchester’s young “upstanders” aren’t only having a positive impact on their school community, they are also learning to spread their wings and spread their message to the world at large.
On Thursday, eight Eastchester Middle School students participated in the ninth annual Human Rights Institute for Middle School Student Leaders, hosted by Rye’s Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester and sponsored by the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center located in White Plains.
The EMS seventh graders joined peers from 10 area middle schools for a day of lectures, workshops and activities designed to hone the youngsters’ leadership skills and have them contemplate how their commitment to good deeds might have an impact that reaches far beyond the halls of their school buildings.
Avery Keller, one of the EMS students who attended the conference, said it was heartening to see students from other schools who embodied the same ideals of kindness and empathy that are promoted within the school district.
“It was really reassuring that it isn’t just for our school,” she said. “Knowing that other people are learning about this and are going to take that with them makes me think that if everyone is learning these lessons, it is something we can take with us into the world after we graduate and make a difference.”
Seventh grade counselor Christine Mejia accompanied the group to the conference and noted that the eight seventh graders were chosen for the event based on their commitment to building a positive, welcoming environment in the school building and recommendations from their previous year’s teachers.
Seventh grader John Martin explained what being an “upstander” means to him and how he and others try to live up to the moniker each day.
“It has two main parts; the first part is standing up for a person or a group of people who may be bullied in school or anywhere else, and the other thing is you don’t engage in anything that an upstander would go against,” said Martin. “You want to make sure you are doing the right thing and supporting people who need support.”
Mejia said the symposium—particularly discussions about how those who speak out against injustice on a global scale have had immeasurable positive impacts on the world—sent a powerful message to the middle schoolers and encouraged them to realize that their everyday actions could eventually have an impact on the world around them.
“They understand what these ideas mean here in school on a smaller scale,” she said. “But to be able to look at the larger issues facing the world through that lens is extremely important.”
The students selected for the conference were Avery Keller, John Martin, Cecilia Brunelli, Sofia Fiore, Mat Krasniqi, Georgina Partridge, Emma Einaudi and Yuusuke Tseng.