Amityville Paves the Path to Peace

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Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of peace and nonviolence was the inspiration for the district’s Pathways to Peace program on Oct. 28, presented in partnership with the Shanti Fund. Students, teachers, administrators, board of education trustees and community members came together to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth in the evening event at the high school.

The lobby was filled with artwork and messages of peace created by the district’s elementary, middle and high school students. Jayne Grasso’s drawing and painting students at Amityville Memorial High School made chalkboard designs inspired by Gandhi’s quotes. Peace posters were drawn by high school artists in Heather Rickard’s class and by Northwest Elementary School students with art teacher Lydia Robinson. On each side of the auditorium stage was a banner – one from Northwest and one from Northeast – with 150 handprints in the different colors of the rainbow.

In their social studies classes, students from Edmund W. Miles Middle School and the high school wrote messages about how they would change the world for the better, which were attached to large banners that were hung in the library. Peter Paternostro, administrator for pupil personnel services and the Pathways to Peace emcee, noted that the program featured student contributions from all five schools.

Musical performances included the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Dona Nobis Pacem” by the middle school and high school chorus under the direction of Debra Koraus, “Crank It Up” and “Pressure Point” by the high school band conducted by Jolene Maccarone, and “Ribbons in the Sky” by the Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School chorus led by Megan Ashe. The program concluded with the high school and middle school chorus returning for “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” with all guests invited to sing along.

In a pair of video presentations, Northwest, middle school and high school students shared their thoughts on what peace means to them, while children from Park Avenue spotlighted books that have messages of peace.

Guest speaker Arvind Vora, from the Shanti Fund, spoke about the history and purpose of the organization. He discussed how Gandhi has been memorialized locally in Suffolk County, in the United States and throughout the world. 

Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly said that Gandhi’s commitment to peace and nonviolence has been emulated globally and inspired other leaders fighting against injustice including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. She explained how grassroots, non-violent movements have brought people together for the common good and created meaningful change in the world. Dr. Kelly praised the work of the Shanti Fund to spread the message of peace and nonviolence through education. 

Park Avenue fifth grader Joel Biju spoke about Gandhi’s leadership in advocating for India’s independence from Great Britain. High school students from the Warrior Awareness Club presented peace rocks, which they created with messages and symbols of peace, to people who have made a difference in their lives. Advisor Jason McGowan said that the recipient of each rock should then pass it on to someone important.

“Our goal,” he said, “is for these rocks to keep going and going throughout the year.”