Student Leaders at Great Path Academy Coordinate School-wide Events to Bring the Community Together
April 8th and 15th, 2016 – Great Path Academy students have been very busy building a community of acceptance at their school. After a group of Great Path Academy students traveled to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2015, they had a message and experience that they wanted to bring back to their peers at school. Working closely with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Great Path Academy Allies planned a day full of learning, team-building, and exposure based around the history of the Holocaust, entitled “From Hate to Hope”. The schedule consisted of the GPA Drum Line opening the day with “Grooving on a Great Path” and a welcome from Karen Avila and Gifty Asante, two GPA Allies. The introduction talked of the background of “From Hate to HOPE”, informing the GPA student body of the mindset for the day’s work. GPA Allies then introduced our guests, Alan Lazowski and his father, Rabbi Phillip Lazowski, a Holocaust survivor. As the rabbi’s story unfolded, the GPA community was exposed to a story of a young boy who almost did not make it out of the selection line. Rabbi Lazowski, as a child whose family was off at the war, was asking people from his town to claim him as their child and a woman saved his life. It was through the kindness of a mother, with two of her own daughters, who claimed him as her son, that he survived that day. Afterwards, his story of resilience and hardship was not over, but he did survive. At a wedding, years later in the United States, he sat at a table, where a woman told a story of a family from Hartford, CT who saved a boy’s life in a selection line from his town. The rabbi knew that this was his story, as well, and went to Hartford to see the woman and the daughters who saved him. He ended up marrying one of the daughters.
Alan Lazowski reflected on his father’s experience, stating that his was a “story about hope and faith, that miracles happen and that we all have an opportunity in life”. After a detailed telling of his experiences, his son, Alan, moderated a question and answer session. Stephanie Hertz, from the ADL, discussed the Pyramid of Hate with Student Voices. The Pyramid of Hate uses history and provides examples of the way in which stereotyping, scapegoating, dehumanization and discrimination can escalate to mass murders that have, in some instances, resulted in genocide. Participants have the opportunity to understand the pain caused by bias and the ways in which prejudice can escalate. It is designed to promote recognition of the value of interrupting that progression (source: ADL website). GPA Allies then came out to set the tone and expectations for the breakout workshops, the purposes for which were to examine how discrimination based on bias can escalate into acts of violence, discuss the impact of prejudice on individuals and on society, and recognize the role of individuals in interrupting the escalation of hate.
In small groups, GPA students and staff completed student-led workshops before a closing assembly. Tiffany Nguyen, a GPA junior from Hartford, CT, reflected on her participation. “In a small group, we got to speak about ourselves. Even though we have all been together for three years (in the junior class), we don’t all really know about who everyone is and what their lives are like. We got to speak about our experiences- for me, it was a big change to come here from Vietnam, everything is different, I have different culture, so I have had to learn. It felt really good sharing that, because I would think that no one wanted to listen to my story, after that I know that sharing is a good thing, people become closer and they all understand more about me.” During the closing of the day, the students announced GPA’s participation in the National Day of Silence on April 15th, a show of solidarity across the nation with all who identify as LGBT. Lessons for the future, student-composed poems and inspirational songs closed the day with a ceremonial feel by Tahira Durant, Owusu Darko, Angelique Melakian, Timothy Powers, Jonathan Rosa, Gabriella Robertson, and Magan Santana.
After this inspiring school event, 64 Great Path Academy students participated in the National Day of Silence, continuing to spread the atmosphere of good will and acceptance throughout the school community. This day concluded with the students gathering in the GPA courtyard and letting out a group scream together to break the silence. As members of a magnet school community that hosts students from 28 area towns, Great Path Academy staff and students are committed to curriculum and programming that fosters acceptance and welcomes all diverse backgrounds. The message from the “From Hate to Hope” and Day of Silence of struggle, diversity, and overcoming all odds will continue through the vision of the staff and the students.
Submitted by Anastasia DiFedele-Dutton
Magnet Theme Coach
Great Path Academy @ Manchester Community College