Naysa Escobar, Erik Flores, Johanna Campos-Moreira, Anaya Watkis, Teddi Carnesi, Fantazhia Ward, Jahiem Hawkins, and Leo Martinez have been nominated to serve as Huntington High School’s new Ambassadors for Social Justice.
The eight teenagers will be working with Huntington UFSD school psychologist Dr. Cynthia Fletcher on this new initiative, which has been wholeheartedly embraced by high school Principal Brenden Cusack.
“The Ambassadors for Social Justice is a small group of students who have great interest in advocating for their peers regarding social justice,” Ms. Carnesi said. “In the world we live in today, we find it very important to make sure the thoughts and concerns of all our classmates are represented. Dr. Fletcher and Mr. Cusack have given us opportunities to attend forums on racism and social justice. The forums will provide us with an opportunity to learn more about social justice and how we can advocate in our communities. In the near future, we will collaborate with other schools on Long Island to discuss the injustices that students face and how we can resolve those injustices.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings between students from a variety of high schools will be held virtually. “The experience will culminate in a group presentation of a capstone project,” Dr. Fletcher said. “The students will learn to apply the concepts and strategies to create a plan of action that targets and addresses any unseen bias in their school and community.”
The student ambassadors are excited to have been chosen to participate in the program, which has been enthusiastically supported by Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky.
“We are striving to learn and focus on creating racial equality not only in school, but also in the community,” Ms. Escobar said. “We are participating in racial equality conferences such as the Erase Racism conference on January 10, where we learned about how Long Island has become segregated over the past years and a virtual forum on January 12, where they discussed issues of anti-Semitism, bias, discrimination and a recent cyber-attack.”
The Huntington High School students will be meeting once or twice a month through June with their counterparts from high schools across the town. They will also continue participating in various conferences, workshops and seminars.
“These are trying times, with a global pandemic ravaging our populations, attacking the vulnerable and forcing isolation and hybrid challenges to learning and exchanges of ideas,” Dr. Fletcher said. “People are seeking equity and social justice, when it is unhealthy to even shake hands or don an uncovered smile. I am pleased that students around the Town of Huntington may be able to get together, through the wonders of technology, to learn from experts on how to detect and combat racial bias, religious discrimination and all forms of bigotry, elitism and unfair exclusion.”
Huntington High School’s eight ambassadors are all determined to make a difference in the community through their participation in the initiative.
“When I first heard of it, I was really excited to be nominated to this position,” Mr. Flores said. “I was even more excited to know that young students discuss community issues and they try to find a way to end these problems. This is a very wonderful opportunity to be involved in.”
The Ambassador’s program will be coordinated by Veronique Bailey, an associate and president-elect of the NAACP’s Huntington chapter. “She is a Huntington Anti-Bias Task Force volunteer who is working with us,” Dr. Fletcher said.