Social Justice Ambassadors Strive for Positive Change
February 1, 2023
Huntington High School’s social justice ambassadors are trying to make the building and community a nicer place for everyone, from the language used to communicate with each other to the tone of voices and even their sound level. Helping free daily interactions of bias or worse is a mission that members of the group take seriously.
Guidance counselor Steve Lashin serves as the social justice ambassador program’s faculty advisor. He meets regularly with the teenagers who volunteered to participate in the initiative. They go on field trips together and meet with nearby social justice ambassador groups that have been established at other high schools.
“The genesis of this program was through discussion at Huntington Anti-Bias Task Force meetings,” Principal Brenden Cusack said. The initiative was made possible through a partnership between the task force and UJA-Federation of New York.
The program aims to equip participants with the tools and knowledge they need to be leaders of positive change in their schools and communities. Learning strategies to combat bias and hate and to hopefully prevent terrible events from happening here is an overarching goal. Past workshops have included a Holocaust survivor as well as family members of those slain in hate crimes.
This year’s corps of social justice ambassadors includes David Dje Bi Baleborzan Simrell, Andrea Mani-Munoz, Damaris Mani-Munoz, Charlotte Gordon, Ibukunoluwa Olabomi, Anne Tyrrell, Katherine Estrada-Morales, Keyla Maldonado, Dawin Preval, DeAndre Simmons, Dominick Vidota, Jada Joseph, John Genova, Kaylee Splendorio, Bradley Contreras, Richard Davis Jr., Giana Anfolisi, Dante Grullon, Geoffrey Hoffmann, Jeremy Gross, Natalie Garcia Alfaro, Edith Thaler and Mary Marinello.
“I was lucky enough to be selected by my guidance counselor, Ms. [Lauren] Brunoni as one of the founding members of the Huntington social justice ambassador program,” Ms. Gordon said. “Being involved has enabled me to attend several inspiring and thought-provoking workshops alongside our neighboring districts. Listening to guest speakers and sharing thoughts with my peers has certainly provided me with the tools to becoming a more open-minded individual. I was even able to meet a Holocaust survivor and hear his story, which was incredibly meaningful for me as a Jewish person.”
The ambassadors are expected to meet for about six workshops during the school year. A majority of the town’s high schools are participating. A culminating activity involves developing a project to address bias in the respective high school and school community.
“The club, led by Mr. Lashin is unique in that instead of having elected positions, our board of directors shares responsibilities, working as a unit to eliminate bias,” Ms. Gordo said. “At the end of the year, we will present our final project to the school, which I am tremendously excited for. We are currently looking for new members, and anyone with questions can reach out to Mr. Lashin (email@example.com) for more information on this phenomenal initiative.”
The program is making a difference in the lives of participants. “Social ambassadors is a great group of kids who come together once or twice a month with other schools around Suffolk,” Ms. Estrada-Morales said. “We all talk about problems we see at school and ways we can better them. These field trips are great as there is always a guest speaker who talks about justice and how they advocate for it. Two weeks ago we attended Unity Day, which was at Suffolk Community College and in my opinion was one of the best field trips that I’ve ever experienced.”