Monday, Feb 26th

Middle Schoolers Encouraged to "Think Kindness," Dance and Give Back at Human Rights Day

Think KindnessBrian Williams from Think Kindness“What is the one thing you can do to make today, better than yesterday?” These were only a few of the inspirational words that Brian Williams from “Think Kindness” shared with the eighth grade class at Scarsdale Middle School during their 20th Annual Human Rights Conference on Friday November 17th. Williams was just one of the keynote speakers for the conference that encouraged SMS students to, “Stand Up and Be the Change.” In addition to keynote speakers, throughout the motivational day of learning students also took part in a variety of thought-provoking activities with teachers and guest speakers alike.

Through his masterful storytelling, Brian Williams managed to capture the attention of an auditorium full of eighth graders (and even a few administrators like Dr. Patrick and Dr. McIntosh!) as he described the experiences of volunteering around the world that lead him to create, “Think Kindness. Think Kindness is a foundation that, “believe(s) that each act of Kindness, no matter how small, has an unforeseeable ripple effect that makes the world a better place. Every person on this planet can think of at least one Kind act that made your day a little brighter.” Think Kindness states that it is their” mission to inspire these Kind acts. To gather thousands of people to perform seemingly simple acts of Kindness in solidarity and that will result in a wave of good, that will make a difference in the world.” Before they filed out of the auditorium, Williams challenged each student to “Be brave. Be kind. And to take action.”bethechange

Another keynote speaker literally had kids out of their seats and dancing in the aisles. Danny Batimana, aka “Cousin Danny,” is a Filipino-American-born former dance choreographer for the Los Angeles Lakers, former math teacher, and the creator of, “Happiness is NOW. The mission of Happiness Now “is to inspire kids to improve their physical and mental health, which, in turn, enhances their academic performance.” Through his high energy and engaging presentation, Cousin Danny not only had his audience (including teachers and faculty!) moving and laughing, but he also managed to teach them about brain chemistry and how physical movement activates chemicals like Dopamine and Endorphins which can help us feel happier, kinder, and more motivated and focused. With the auditorium vibrating with excitement and energy, Cousin Danny also talked about the importance of taking time to recharge your batteries and surrounding yourself with a positive group of friends because, “we can’t take care of the world, unless we take care of ourselves.”CousinDannyCousin Danny with organizer Cara Forray

Dan Zauderer was also on hand to talk about Grassroots Grocery and his mission to drive out hunger in some areas of the Bronx and right here in Westchester. As a former middle school teacher, Zauderer easily captivated his audience’s attention as he described how Grassroots Grocery works to rescue good, healthy food from being wasted and then distributes it to neighborhoods in need. Zauderer went on to explain that Grassroots Grocery relies heavily on volunteers and that students can easily get involved to help sort and distribute food every Saturday morning. Two student ambassadors, Logan Meschewski and Jack Levin, joined Zauderer to discuss their experiences with Grassroots Grocery and how others can join the Student Task Force or take part in the “Student Change-maker Award."

Throughout the day, students also took part in creative and thought-provoking activities and lessons like:

- Amnesty International: Wage Gap Presentation led by SHS students

-Creative HeARTS: Art project for White Plains Hospital

-When Wonder is Real: Bullying and Facial Deformities with My Face

-Creating dog toys for Paws Crossed an animal rescue in Elmsford, NY

-Creating Healthy Snack Bags for Grassroots Grocery

-STEM Flood Barrier Project led by teachers Brittany Vella and Laurie Ciccone. In this activity students used supplied materials to plan and build flood barriers. Students practiced teamwork as they worked in groups to share ideas and complete the projects.

-Discussing accessibility for all with Melanie Millard

-And much, much more!

redbandanaAlison Crowther from the Red Bandanna ProjectSome lucky students also got to hear from Alison Crowther who helped to establish the Red Bandana Project in honor of her late son, a 9/11 civilian hero, Welles Remy Crowther. Welles Crowther is, “Known around the world as the “Man in the Red Bandanna” for his selfless, heroic actions during his final hour at the World Trade Center.” Today, Crowther’s parents carry on his legacy with lessons that can inspire and encourage youth to embody the same heroic traits as their son. The lessons cover aspects like “Leadership, Caring for Others, TEAM, The Power of One, Bridging Divides, Forgiveness and Carpe Diem.” 

Whether dancing in the aisles, building flood barriers, or creating healthy snack bags for Grassroots Grocery, students enthusiastically helped to celebrate the 20th annual “Human Rights Day” Conference at SMS. Coordinators of the incredible day, teachers Cara Forray and Tayla Holtzer, believe that, “the service learning opportunities serve the purpose of a deeply meaningful experience and resulting impact that one person can have on the lives of others,” and that the day, “is an opportunity for all different types of thinkers and learners to come together with one purpose.” They couldn’t have been more pleased when one student shared, “that they felt great pride in connecting their work in school to a truly authentic outcome for others in their community.”

GrassrootsGroceriesDan Zauderer of Grassroots Groceries and student ambassadors Jack Levin, Logan Mechewski

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