February 7, 2019

Adelphi Hosts High School Students at 33rd Annual Human Rights Conference

Human Rights Conference

High school students from across Long Island attended the Human Rights Awareness Conference at Adelphi on Thursday, January 31. The goal of the 33rd annual conference was to promote human decency, respect and sensitivity for people of all races, religions, cultures, ages and genders.

The conference, a collaborative event created by the Nassau County Human Rights Commission and Adelphi’s College of Education and Health Sciences, featured eight thought-provoking human rights workshops presented by members of local law enforcement and professors, including Adelphi faculty. Workshop topics included the rights of immigrant youths, mental health in the LGBTQ+ community, gang awareness and prevention, constitutional rights, sexual assault, and social media.

“Since 2007, the conference has taken place at Adelphi, creating an opportunity for emerging high school juniors and seniors to discuss issues of race, ethnicity, gender and bigotry,” said event coordinator Patrice Armstrong-Leach, assistant dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences.

Adelphi College of Education and Health Sciences Professor Devin Thornburg, Ph.D., and Director of Student Mentoring Chotsani West, M.A. ’07, presented a workshop titled “Beginning Conversations About Microaggressions, Social Media and Human Rights.” The goal of the collaborative workshop was to teach students to identify microaggressions in everyday life, as well as how they affect social media culture and human rights. To illustrate this, students participated in a number of group exercises to get to know one another and identify their cultural differences and similarities. They then watched media clips featuring a controversial news story and were asked to decipher the microaggressions within the scenario. At the end of the workshop, students shared how they could take what they learned about microaggressions and cultural sensitivity and apply it to the classroom and the world.

Other workshops included:

  • “Immigrant Youth on Long Island: Do They Have Rights?” presented by Assistant District Attorney Silvia Pastor Finkelstein, J.D., director, Office of Immigrant Affairs, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office
  • “Addressing the Mental Health Gap in the LGBTQ+ Community,” presented by Peer Navigators at Pride for Youth
  • “Gang Awareness and Prevention,” presented by Detective Sergeant Michael Marino, Nassau County Police Department
  • “Make Peace, Not War…From Student Clubs to College Degrees (in Peace Studies) to Careers (in Peacebuilding),” presented by Susan Cushman, Ph.D., Nassau Community College professor
  • “The Power of Symbols Deconstructing Hate,” presented by Helen Turner, The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County
  • “Know Your Rights: Constitutional Rights Regarding Police and Protest,” presented by Susan Gottehrer, New York Civil Liberties Union Nassau Chapter
  • “Healing From Sexual Assault Through the Arts,” presented by Dorotea Litvak, Ph.D., Nassau Community College professor

“The need to promote tolerance [and] cultural and racial understanding cannot be overstated,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Despite the challenges we may face, we must reject discrimination, intolerance and bigotry in all its forms.”

The day concluded with the moving presentation of Homeland Insecurity, original monologues performed by Adelphi theater students Sophia Carvalho, Mili Shrestha, Emma Scholl, Dayna Comins, Belgys Felix, Germaine Jeanty, Carson Ferguson, Fernando Mercado and William Meurer, directed by Maggie Lally ’82, associate professor of theater. Rebecca Sternberg, Mercado and Jeanty provided technical assistance.

The students’ emotional performances centered around the theme of “safety” at home, in school and in everyday life. Topics discussed included sexuality, bullying, love, childhood, racism, drugs, mental health and gun violence. The group’s mission was to “bring evocative and diverse stories on social justice issues to students through a theater experience, to engage, educate and entertain,” said Lally.

“Being able to have a Q&A with the high schoolers and hear their experiences showed that we can make a change, that there are things we can do to help others, and letting people know we are there for them, is so important,” said sophomore Ferguson. “I wish I had had that experience in high school.”


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