Students and Community Come Together to Deliver a Message of Tolerance

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One of the best ways to bring diverse groups and populations together is to provide a common cause – one that will strike the sensibilities and values associated with each of those groups.  

That was the thought process of Ron Weber, who teaches character education in the 21st Century after-school program at Amityville’s Edmund W. Miles Middle School. His students wanted to make a public statement about tolerance and acceptance. They shared their thoughts on how best to get their message across and decided on a group public service announcement video, which now airs on YouTube.

“After looking at a number of possibilities, we decided to model our video after a public service announcement that I saw several years ago,” said Mr. Weber, who also teaches technology and advises the Friday morning news club at EWMMS. With the help of his students and support from EWMMS Principal Michele Darby, 21st Century program coordinator Jack Zider, and Assistant Superintendent for Data, Technology and Secondary Education Dr. Mary Kelly, Mr. Weber scripted, filmed and edited the video.

Their tag line, which they decided to print on T-shirts, was “I won’t stand for…” followed by terms such as “intolerance,” “hate,” “homophobia,” “racism,” “violence,” “bullying” and “discrimination.”  

"When we were shooting the video for the "I will not stand for ______," I was surprised at first. I never really knew that someone actually had the nerve to create a video to help others in such a creative and emotional way,” said EWMMS student Esteban Idrovo, who appears in the video. “It was an amazing and fun activity to be part of. I felt very good on the inside, to know that we were part of something like this. It was a privilege to be part of a video that can make a difference, for every person it reaches, that may be enough to make a change."

With the creative vision in place, plenty of willing student-actors (including members of the 21st Century program drama club), and the necessary video equipment already in-house, only one hurdle remained: there was no money in the program’s budget for the T-shirts. Therefore, Mr. Weber appealed to his colleagues in the school community.

Various groups and individuals from within the EWMMS school community and around the school district came together to help fund the purchase of 85 T-shirts for students to wear in the video. The support was overwhelming, with many contributors, from individual teachers and staff members to the Amityville Parent Teacher Council, the 21st Century program and Amityville Teachers Association. Once sufficient funds were raised, Mr. Weber met with Bobby T’s in Amityville and was pleasantly surprised to hear he was getting a significant discount on the shirts he and his students had designed.

Others lent their creative talents to the effort. EWMMS music teacher Jolene Maccarone composed an original score for the PSA. Amityville Memorial High School technology teacher Steve Carbo helped with some of the video shots. Community member and 21st Century program drama adviser Gerald Asbell helped with the production and setup. EWMMS health teacher Bernadette Kraljic also helped organize the production setting. Amityville Board of Education members even turned out the day of the shoot in support of the activity and to help distribute the t-shirts to students.

“Everyone and every group who donated something toward making the PSA a reality was excited to hear that under a climate of academic demands, teenagers were extending their time and effort to enhance the character of others,” said Mr. Weber. “As word of the filming got out, it seemed like every group associated with our district asked to be involved to help facilitate this activity. After all was said and done, the recording of the video was a tremendous success. Everyone had come together to help the students make a statement about what is right for our society.”

The EWMMS 21st Century “Acceptance and Tolerance” PSA can be viewed on YouTube at http://tinyurl.com/op55g9x.