A Program of Diversity

A group of about 25, carefully selected students from all grade levels at Mepham High School are bringing The World of Difference program to their peers. Mr. Lewis Serra, Assistant Principal, is organizing the process with the help of teachers Richard Owen, Dona Morales, Kelly Caffrey, and Stacey Lasurdo.

"We started last spring by identifying the students," Mr. Serra says. "We went to kids in all of the various, diverse groups at Mepham and asked them who among their peers they felt are accepting, trustworthy, and good listeners." This diverse group and their faculty advisors attended a three-day training session designed to sensitize participants to those realities that engender prejudice and strife. Through activities at Camp Alvernia in Centerport, Long Island, these students learned to listen for the sounds of discord and to discover ways to bring people together, enabling them to see commonalities, accept differences, and live together peacefully.

Upon their return, this group made three important presentations. In the first one, they visited all of the social studies classes to explain the program, show what they learned, and garner support for their activities. Next, they addressed parents and community members at an evening get-together. Finally, when they presented this program at a faculty meeting, this core group of students secured the admiration and support of Mepham's staff and received a standing ovation.

The group members say the three-day training they received has already made a World of Difference to them. Ginnie Pitre says, "I didn't know any of the people in this group before the training. But we got to know each other and to appreciate people who are different from us. We want more people in our community to appreciate diversity." Maria McDermott says that despite differences, "we're all human, and we all have emotions and insecurities, and we have to be sensitive to one another."

Participating in the overnight trip with the students was "One of the most moving experiences I've had as a teacher," says Richard Owen, "The students worked all night, talking about issues of cliques and isolation, and planning things they want to do. This is a kind of covert activity. These students go back to their other friends and infiltrate with positive messages, making a difference one person at a time."

Our district's two middle schools are also adopting the World of Difference program.

World of Difference

Mepham High School's World of Difference participants are: Back Row: left to right) Joe Azzata, Robert Hoffman, Jimmy Edwards, Katie South, Daniel Witt, Edward Woda, Nicole Gandini, Austin Pollack, and Kristen Jozkowski. Middle Row., left to right) Gary Chang, Shereen Mahmood, Mike Mulligan, Ginny Pitre, Ashley Bell, Cindy Powder, Erika Graziano, and Barry Dolinger (on crutches). Front Row left to right) Cara Szeglin, Dominique Hernandez, Vicky Lucido, and Maria McDermott. Missing are Jaimie Slutsky and Jon Warman.

From the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Newsletter, Fall 1999