Sharing Without Borders in Amityville

Sharing Without Borders in Amityville photo thumbnail113115

Forty students from three Long Island high schools came together after school at Amityville Memorial High School on March 12 to continue their discussion on issues affecting society. Through the Breaking Borders program, Amityville students welcomed their peers from Oyster Bay and Syosset high schools to share their thoughts about inequality.

After bonding over pizza in the cafeteria, students moved to the gymnasium where they met in small groups. Discussion prompts included their perceptions of inequality and why it exists, gender pay equality, reasons some people don’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and personal experiences with inequality. Each group had a student leader to facilitate conversation. 

Amityville social studies teacher Matthew Tomasi said the rules were simple: students had to come in with an open mind and respect each other’s opinions. The purpose was to foster an honest dialogue among teenagers who have grown up in different communities. 

“It’s nice to learn about other people on Long Island and to speak to people with different perspectives,” Amityville sophomore Johnatan Blanchard said about his reasons for taking part in the Breaking Borders program. 

Earlier this year, Mr. Tomasi took a group of 12 Amityville students from his Advanced Placement European History class to Freeport High School for a Breaking Borders program on family traditions. In addition to thoughtful and productive discussions, students also wrapped Christmas presents for children in the community.

Mr. Tomasi said that word quickly spread among the Amityville student body about the experience. He then took a group of 30 interested students to the next program at Elmont Memorial High School, where the conversation centered on immigration. Students also brought canned goods to donate to Elmont’s food drive. Joining students and Mr. Tomasi on that trip were Assistant Principal Brian Suckle, social studies teacher Robert Annese and science teacher Patrick Fallot.  

“It’s good for the students to meet different people from different parts of Long Island to bring issues to light,” Mr. Tomasi said. “It allows the students to face the challenges currently in our society, because they are going to be the generation that finds solutions.” 

Breaking Borders is a student-run leadership program which aims to break down ethnic, socio-economic, racial and religious barriers among students from different Long Island school districts. The program fosters respect, tolerance and understanding by encouraging open and honest dialogue among students. Mr. Tomasi said after the sessions at three different high schools, Amityville students “walked away seeing things from a different perspective.”