Plainville Community Schools, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville CT 06062, (860)793-3200

Plainville High School Students Unite Through Make A Difference Assembly

Plainville High School students came together recently for a morning of candid discussion and activities centered on the topic of bullying. Freshman, sophomores and juniors gathered in the auditorium for the "Make a Difference Assembly", coordinated by high school world language teacher Pam Gervasio and guidance counselor Patricia Grant. Posters reading "Respect Feelings", "Agree to Disagree", "We Are All Equal" and "Speak for Yourself" donned the auditorium, providing the ground rules for the event. The program is part of a new mentoring program initiative at the high school that connects all students with faculty and staff members. Grant acknowledged the hard work and efforts of her colleague saying, "Pam Gervasio has worked many years on such programs and assemblies. She deserves many accolades for this work with the incoming freshman class and the mentor program next year."

Gervasio worked closely over the last year with the Anti-Defamation League and a group of Plainville High School students who wanted to positively impact the climate and culture in the school district. The students were trained as facilitators at a workshop held by the Anti-Defamation League, and participated in an anti-bullying program at the middle school earlier in the school year. "As facilitators, we visited 6th graders at the middle school and talked about bullying and participated in some interactive activities with the students," explained sophomore Alicia Panetta. "We also served as facilitators for the high school assembly, leading a number of activities."

Student facilitators were enthusiastic supporters of the high school assembly program. Junior Jamie Wampler explained, "I knew it would be an intense day. I think many people were positively affected by the program and they will change and remember this day for a long time." Senior Justin Zmijewski added, "I really enjoyed it. I think it opened the eyes of a lot of people here. It was a very successful event that will create positive change." Junior facilitator Avalon Guarino said, "It is very important for all people, young and old to talk about these issues. I really hope that we can all get along, take what we learned, and apply it in our lives."

The high school assembly included a variety of ice breaker and group activities, discussion of bullying legislation and discrimination, a video entitled the "Blue Eye Experiment", exploring a classroom experiment on discrimination based on eye color, and an open mic segment, where many high school students had the opportunity to share their thoughts on bullying. Junior Bill Kozak spoke to the students during the open mic segment saying, "Thank you – I came in here thinking I would not change, and I feel flipped over – I changed. We should all use our voices to make a positive difference here." High School freshman Ray Lewis also shared his thoughts, "think before you say something – sometimes it hurts inside and people don’t show it. We should treat people as we’d like to be treated."

Students were asked to complete a workshop evaluation after the program, and the results showed that students overwhelmingly endorsed the assembly program. "I am very proud that students took this program seriously. Based on the results of the 560 evaluations submitted by students at the program’s end, they collectively vowed to think twice before saying something negative and/or judging a person based on their appearance," explained Gervasio. "I believe the program significantly increased their sense of community and responsibility to improve it."

Freshman Michael Rottier reflected on the program noting, "It was very cool. I enjoyed the video, the speakers, and the activities." One student on her way back to class at the conclusion of the assembly commented, "Today was a blast!"

"It was one of the most moving and meaningful experiences kids have had here at Plainville High School. It gave us some insight as to discussion topics in our mentoring program," said Plainville High School Principal Greg Ziogas.

-Posted on June 20, 2008 at 12:03 PM

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