A Day To Open Dialogues Toward Understanding
Sayville Art Students' Mural Design
“Do Unto Others” is the Golden Rule, but who are these “others?”
In an effort to bring awareness about other peoples and cultures within our global society, Sayville High School hosted a school-day event. Thanks to the recent grant awarded from NYSED, the Sayville Consortium launched “Diversity Day.” Sayville teamed up with Wyandanch and South Huntington School Districts to create and deliver a “Culturally and Linguistically Responsive (CLR) Professional-Development opportunity for the faculty as well as to develop for “Long Island students a better understanding of multiple cultures and perspectives.”
Sayville faculty, ninth and tenth graders along with students and faculty from the other districts were introduced to individuals whose life experiences were thoroughly “different than their own,” remarked Assistant Principal Jillian Makris, adding that the purpose of this event for educators and students alike was to begin fostering “an environment of cultural sensitivity.”
Some topics among the twelve activities offered included:
- A professional development workshop for the faculty by Dr. Cristina Alfaro from San Diego State University. Dr. Alfaro gave an eye-opening demonstration on how implicit bias leads to microaggressions;
- A powerful presentation by Daniel Trust, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Despite witnessing the murder of his family as a five-year-old during the 1994 genocide, Mr. Trust chose messages of love and understanding over hate. He shared with the assembly how he has grown to value this choice;
- “Symbols of Hate,” presented by Felice Katz from the Long Island Holocaust Museum to students explored tolerance and the significance of using hateful symbols and speech;
- A presentation by Fozia Khan who shared the experiences of Muslim women and some of the misconceptions regarding women in Islam;
- Teacher-led discussions using video clips/articles considered celebrity accountability when racism occurs. (Roseanne Barr, Donald Sterling, Paula Deen, Yulieski Gurriel, Mel Gibson, Meghyn Kelly);
- A workshop viewing Sally Kohn's 'What we can do about the culture of hate' TED Talk invited class discussion led by faculty;
- A discussion presented by Dr. Aaron Johnson on the significance of implicit and unconscious bias and the impact bias has on our society.
- An “Inclusion Through Art” prompt challenged students to interpret and create a permanent mural to display in our school.
In addition, after the formal presentations, all students and faculty met the presenters in a casual environment where they could speak and ask questions.
The success of the day’s activities was due to the collaboration of Sayville administrators (Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Christine Criscione, Instructional Technology Coordinator Barbara Hall, High School Principal Ron Hoffer, and Assistant Principal Jillian Makris) and faculty (Mrs. Susan Hart, Mrs. LynnAnn Perlin, and Ms. Julia Sergison). Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Perlin and Ms. Sergison did an outstanding job in organizing speakers and facilitating lessons for this day. Special thanks go to all the faculty members who volunteered to moderate the activities as well as the student ambassadors who assisted.
Being non-judgmental, honoring diversity, and loving thy neighbor are not always easy philosophies to embrace, but one of the best ways to grasp these concept begins with understanding. And at Sayville High School, the lesson has begun.
Dr. Cristina Alfaro
Dr. Aaron Johnson
Artists at Work
Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Perlin, Ms. Sergison
Faculty, Guests and Facilitators
Photo (l-r) Wyandanch High School Mr. Paul Sibblies, Sayville Social Studies Mrs. Sue Hart, Sayville High School Principal Ron Hoffer, Bayshore High School African American Studies Dr. Aaron D. Johnson, San Diego State University Dr. Cristina Alfaro, Sayville Social Studies LynnAnn Perlin, Sayville student Vincent Vertuccio, Sayville World Languages Julia Sergison, High School Assistant Principal Jillian Makris, Long Island Holocaust Museum Felice Katz, and Inspirational Speaker Mr. Daniel Trust