Students of every grade level gathered Monday inside the gymnasium at Whitehall High School and listened intently as Topher Montville, junior high guidance counselor, challenged students to think beyond themselves.
“I dare you to care,” Montville said. “Think about what you can do to make school a better place because in the end what we do to treat others with respect is what will make this school a better place.”
The challenge and the ensuing “peace rally” kicked off the district’s Peace Week, five days of lessons and activities aimed at engendering respect and kindness among students.
Held every spring, the focus of this year’s Peace Week—it used to be known as non-violence week but the name was changed last year to remove the word violence—is human rights.
“It’s important for the students to understand that we are all entitled to equal rights,” Kelly McHugh, high school principal said.
Although Monday was the official start of the week, nearly 70 students, teachers and bus drivers got a jump start on the festivities by participating in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence,” Saturday at Samaritan Hospital in Troy.
Students traveled together to Troy in school buses (the cost of transportation was paid for using grant monies) and once there were challenged to literally walk one mile in women’s shoes to help raise awareness about rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
All of the participants collected donations in the days and weeks leading up to the event to benefit the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program at the hospital.
That kind of empathy has been on display throughout the week.
Student organization, R.A.V.E. (Railroaders Against Violence Everywhere), is holding its annual recruitment drive through tomorrow afternoon and other organizations like Wait House, a Glens Falls-based organization that provides assistance for homeless teens, have visited (or will visit the school) to provide information on the services they provide..
“We want to encourage them (the students) to think beyond themselves,” McHugh said.
That lesson has become a common part of the curriculum this week.
“Various teachers have been implementing that concept into their common core lessons,” said Karen Short, an English teacher and the district’s common core administrator.
Art students have made and displayed work that encompasses peace and the English department has asked students to write poems about human rights.
McHugh said the goal is to make students more considerate of others as well as realize how their actions affect them.
“If they begin to think beyond themselves now and recognize that there are people who aren’t treated with equal rights, when they get older, they do can do something about it. They can become part of the solution,” she said.