New York Youth “Stop Bullying and Speak Up” at Hofstra University

Published on Long Island Report

“I’ve seen bullying.”

“If there is a bully, it [anti-bullying conference] really helps because you know what to do now and you don’t have to be afraid—you can just reach out and help them.”

“I’ve learned to speak up,”

These were remarks made by some of the more than 200 children from four different elementary schools in New York who attended an anti-bullying conference at Hofstra University on Friday, Oct. 25.

The event, using the slogan “stop bullying; speak up,” was intended to educate children on the dangers of student harassment.

Children show off artwork at Hofstra's ant-bullying conference

Children show off artwork at Hofstra’s anti-bullying conference
LIR Photo Credit: Jeanine Russaw

North Shore LIJ Medical Center contacted Hofstra’s radio station, WRHU, and worked in tandem with the university to create a place for the students to engage.

A chief organizer of the conference and an adjunct professor at Hofstra’s Department of Rhetoric, Charlene Sanders, made appearances at each presentation.

“Today’s conference is also based around a dream,” Sanders said. “The dream of Dr. Wells—from North Shore LIJ— in wanting to do something to combat bullying.”

Understanding the issue

One session of fifth grade students addressed the new weapons of student harassment, cyber bullying.

“I feel many of our students are using many different internet facilities such as Facebook,” said Christine Taylor, fifth grade teacher at Northern Parkway Elementary School. “As a teacher, that worries me because that is out of our control.” Many faculty in attendance echoed Taylor’s concern.

After teaching for 17 years, Jo Schoonmaker has seen situations of taunting parallel to the examples outlined by the conference. She says the event brought “a reality” to her students.

Volunteers at the event stressed the importance of addressing bullying. Sophomore Jen Karasik got involved under the advisement of Sanders, and feels that bullying is a part of any child’s life.”You always want to make a difference in people’s lives. Especially young kids, because it starts that young,” Karasik said of the conference’s impact.

Each presentation lasted an hour and a half and was interactive. Kids were asked questions that prompted them to think about the effect bullying has on their peers.

Making a difference

After the end of the first half of the sessions, three girls walked the hallways recounting the tales of the last speaker they heard, and addressing a group targeted by bullies in their school: members of the LGBTQ community.

“People who are gay are afraid to admit it because they are afraid they will get teased,” one girl said.

“I didn’t stand up for my classmates before, but I will now,” said another girl.

Spoken word presenter Peter Volatti worked with students who have been affected by bullying, but he’s also worked with bullies themselves.

“I made them understand that it [bullying] is an awful thing to do to someone,” Volatti said. “Especially when the child can hurt themselves or even worse, commit suicide.”

The conference was seen as effective by both the event’s organizers and those who attended. There are plans between North Shore LIJ and Hofstra for more anti-bullying campaigns and informational sessions in subsequent years.

Written by: Jeanine Russaw on November 1, 2013.

From Dayton, Ohio– College Students and the Public Summit at the Kettering Foundation… Part One

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New Directions for Leadership on College Campuses/ Life Lessons in Politics

By Jeanine Russaw

‘A lesson in politics’—where have I heard that before?  Cliché, yes.

This however, is not: Poli is a prefix with Latin derivation meaning “Many,” while Tics are “Blood-sucking Parasites.” That is the meaning of ‘politics’ according to a rather comical meme I came across in the past couple of months. While I am well aware of the joke’s grammatical fallacies, I could not help but question its validity.

Of course I know that not all politicians are honest, but that must mean the reverse is true as well. Indeed, not all politicians are dishonest…so why do I have a hard time trusting figures of authority in my personal day to day life?

I raise that question because that is my current definition of politics: life.

This is a conclusion I reached after a year with what I consider to be the best decision I’ve ever made in life: being involved with a Civic Engagement project (‘Deepening Democracy through Deliberation’) at Hofstra University in conjunction with the Kettering Foundation and NIF. It is very interesting how when one is putting together a puzzle and gets stuck on one particular piece, that is all they can see. It isn’t until the puzzle is completely finished that the manner in which the pieces fit together is visible.

That is very reminiscent of how my involvement with Civic Engagement has been. When I close my eyes and re-live the journey that it entailed, I find myself surprised— because who on earth could possibly imagine a former drama major with no prior knowledge/interest of politics or fundamental goings-on in the world suddenly interested in community development?

But that is exactly what I am, and I’m quite proud of it.

However, I soon realized that it was not enough to declare my interest in civic responsibility; I had to truly learn it and know exactly what I was talking about. Beginning with “Deeping Democracy through Deliberation,” I was presented the task of moderating National Issues Forums with an extremely talented group of 20 Hofstra students in order to bring  an understanding of ‘America’s Role in the World’ and similar topics to both high school students and working adults alike.

Lesson number one:

Everything in life involves some form of politics. There is no escaping it.

How could I have been so naïve? Politics and the end result of political decisions affect me daily. Be it through the amount of money I spend on my education, regulations on what I can and can’t write about in my desired profession, or even down to the choices I will make regarding the area where I will live. Nonbiased though we were in conducting these forums, someone in the group managed to bring the discussion back to that place.

The following is an excerpt from a blog I wrote after a forum at Long Beach Library:

“In this option, the issue guide suggests that in order to repair our ailing economy, the government should reward enterprise—we need innovators to move society forward. When participants were asked about giving tax breaks to the wealthy so that they might startup businesses to bolster the economy, one participant expressed grave concerns: ‘I don’t trust them to do that. They make more money than everyone else; they don’t do anything with it.’ She continued, ‘There needs to be more regulation or else our economy will fall apart,’ appropriately highlighting one of the major trade-offs associated with this possible action.”

As I wake up every morning and step outside my dorm onto the Hofstra campus, I often ponder whether or not my decisions make any type of difference. I believe empowering students with awareness of certain issues, followed by equipping them with the tools to make the changes they desire are most helpful. That was certainly the case when I accompanied Hofstra Civic Engagement representatives (with leader Etana Jacobi) for education of Sustained Dialogue.  I learned:

“Sustained Dialogue is about forging and transforming relationships between people of different or seemingly different identities, beliefs, or status for the purpose of garnering understanding or taking action.”

While life and politics are synonymous in my opinion, this is a much finer point.  Because of this broader sense of political phenomena, something else occurred to me. Why am I not talking about this with my peers? Why do I choose to be kept in the dark about the institutions I find myself in every day, when I could be taking advantage of my far more intelligent peers? And what if I’m not the only student who thinks this way?

These are the obstacles to comprehending community-politics.

Lesson number two:

Don’t like the rules?  It only takes a small group of people to make a difference.

For Hofstra, we have agreed upon a long term goal of closing the schism between the Hofstra campus and its surrounding community, while addressing concerns of socio-economic gaps and racial divides as possible causes. However, we have also come to the understanding that this will only be possible if we receive “buy in” from our own school, so we will first make a change at Hofstra by hearing the opinion of students and faculty.

There is room for improvement everywhere I turn. I no longer turn a blind eye to what is wrong, because as life is constantly changing, so is politics. Plans will constantly be made whether I choose to see it or not. So there is my crossroads: I can actively do something about certain situations, or I can just watch as life happens…helplessly.

So to answer the question I found myself wondering earlier, the reason I find myself distrusting authority figures is a defense mechanism of self-preservation…a natural part of life. Gone are the days where we can sit idly and be content with all policies we encounter—government imposed or otherwise. Now is the time when students can act to ensure the changes they would like see come into fruition.  That is what politics—and life—are about.

the Unwritten Rules Season Two Premiere: Continuing to Critique Racism in the Workplace

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Published on For Harriet

Aasha Davis once said, “You can still be your true self, even if you are different.”

While acting in her role as “Racey” on popular web series the Unwritten Rules, Davis made this thematic aside in addition to 10 other “Unwritten Rules” for black people—in a predominately white work environment—to follow.

The Unwritten Rules, as it is stylized, has seen eleven episodes (12 if you count ‘The Redux’) and over 18,000 YouTube subscribers since its original posting on April 25, 2012. Based on the book: 40 Hours and an Unwritten Rule: The Diary of a Nigger, Negro, Colored, Black, African-American Woman by Kim Williams, this web series tackled common racial stereotypes and unfair corporate practices in its first season.

“Since I’ve spent the majority of my life ‘being one of the only ones,’ I understand the weight of feeling that you’re representing your culture or sex and that you better not screw it up,” said Davis on the connection she has to “Racey” and the responsibility she holds as a member of an underrepresented community.

As the second season—premiered Wednesday, June 19 at 9 AM PST— unfolds, the audience can expect more complex plots, character development, and breaking down of racial barriers.

While portraying “#NerdyAwkwardPeter,” David Lowe claims to be like his character in quite a few ways…minus the awkwardness. His affinity for black culture is not unlike Peter’s; however growing up with a “post-racial-divide mentality” in conjunction with being a part of the series has shaped how he views racial relations in America.

“Kim has a tremendous amount of bravery to say ‘this is my education and these are my experiences…take it for what it is,” Lowe said.

The production currently takes a journalistic approach, resulting in an atmosphere “where nobody feels offended saying ‘black’ as opposed to ‘African-American,’ so people put up walls,” according to Lowe. “That doesn’t exist on our set.”

On camera, however, that is not the case. Enter Kathy, Racey’s culturally ignorant employer, who’s first outlandish remark to Racey was: “I LOVE your hair! It’s so….whimsical!”

“I do not believe Kathy is racist,” Sara Finley says of her character, Kathy.

“Kathy is insecure and does not like change. She also likes to be in control. When things change in her office and the company she works for, she feels threatened and might say things insensitively, or she may frantically attempt to keep things the way they’ve been. She is also a judgmental person, but that too stems from her insecurity. But she is not a racist and she is not a ‘bad’ person, even though she is not likeable to the audience. I cannot think of her or approach her as racist. I know many people that remind me of Kathy.”

That is what the show aims to address. the Unwritten Rules exposes racial tensions and advises on how to absolve it, rather than “glossing” over it, the way contemporary society often does.

Now for a few more answers that we’re all dying to know!

Cast Member Q&A

With AASHA DAVIS as RACEY

JMR: How do you feel about the terms “blackness” and “ghetto” as they are used on the show?

AD: It is the humorous analysis of these types of words that make me love this show. We all understand what it’s like to be described in one word, it can never explain the wholeness of an individual made up of so many layers and experiences. I understand why they’re so easy to use, so I don’t know how, but I would love to see our society mature out of the use of these types of labels.

JMR: What is production of the show like?

AD: One of the many things I appreciate about Kim Williams is she has so few resources and yet she still creates an organized environment for us all to work in. We have a lot of fun but we get the job done. She works with each actor’s schedule if they have to leave for other commitments (which is unheard of in Hollywood). Our last episode we shot was one of my favorite shooting days in my career. We laughed ’till my cheeks hurt.

With SARA FINLEY as KATHY

JMR: What was the most challenging aspect of acting on the Unwritten Rules?

SF: Race is a delicate issue, and even though the point of this series is to make light of it and have fun looking at race and stereotypes, to me I worried about having too much fun with Kathy and offending someone. I don’t feel free to ‘improv’ lines on this series…I stick to them exactly as they are written. That is hard especially with comedy where sometimes you want to just play with stuff and see how it sounds, but things could turn ugly if something came out wrong or was taken in an incorrect way.

With DAVID LOWE as PETER

JMR: What would you like people to take away from the show?

DL: I’d say the most important lesson to take from the show is to always try to approach difficult issues like racial divides from a place where you’re first and foremost willing to acknowledge and laugh at your own issues of ignorance or stereotypes, and always check your ego at the door.

While plans for a third season have not yet been discussed, the cast and creator of the show have plenty to say on these topics, and will continue to say it.

Jeanine Russaw is a junior at Hofstra University pursuing majors in Broadcast Journalism and Rhetoric:Social Action. She is involved with the Hofstra Center for Civic Engagement. Follow her on twitter @jMarieRussaw or her personal website: jeaninerussaw.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading one of my first For Harriet Clips!

As Always,

–jeanine

From Bayboro, North Carolina– Last day of Service with the NRN

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alternative Spring Break National Program Day 3!

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Today was probably the most rewarding day we’ve had thus far.  It was also the saddest day, because it was our last day of service, and the unforgettable experiences we’ve had, have left us wanting more. In gorgeous weather, the members of our ASB team began by splitting into two separate groups. The first group was sent to clear out neglected items of our previous site’s former occupants (while dirty, was a positive experience!) so that the remaining students could move on to the larger task of demolishing the third and final site. The first group joined them a few hours later.
Along with our neighbors for the week, students from the University of Delaware, we tore down an already-standing house in less than 6 hours! In amazement at witnessing the bulldozer collapse the structure, we gathered our tools and got to work. No one person was in charge as we were all novices in the practice of deconstruction. However, as a team, we knocked down drywall until there was nothing remaining but the frame. By the end of the day, the work site was completely cleared!
Below is a picture timeline of all that we accomplished today!

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At the beginning of the day, a full house was standing

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A few hours later we had removed all the drywall and siding

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The bulldozer knocked over the house so we could carry the frame and roofing to the dumpster

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By 3 pm, the entire house was gone!

Special moments of the day included lessons in “humility and flexibility.” Amanda, a local camp counselor whose program was destroyed by Hurricane Irene, helped us place a face with the situation. She explained to us the sites we are working on are in a depressed section of town, and that we were not only tearing down condemned structures, but rebuilding the community. Her gratitude for all we have been doing was humbling.

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We started by tearing down all the drywall

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After the house was down, we carried the debris to the dumpster

The fulfilling aspect of our service is not just in changing a situation, but in inspiring those affected by it. During Amanda’s speech, she thanked us for our loud cheers, which she could hear from her porch (unbeknownst to us) and claimed lifted the hearts of her neighbors. See the link below!
After three full days of challenges, we could not have asked for a better trip. Not only have we seen a change in Bayboro, North Carolina, but we’ve seen a change in ourselves through teamwork and bonding. Between helping others as well as one another, we have a full concept of why we choose to do service work. Coming together for a common good and realizing that the smallest thing can brighten someone’s day is a true gift.

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Above is a photo from our semi-professional on-site photo shoot with our ASB Men!

Blog written by:  Jeanine Russaw, Class of 2015 and Julia McGuire, Class of 2016

From Bayboro, North Carolina– Last day of Service with the NRN

From Bayboro, North Carolina– Time with the National Relief Network

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alternative Spring Break National Program Day 2!

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As we began our second day in North Carolina, the sun was finally shining and we were ready to go!  While we did not get rained on today, the day certainly presented challenges of its own.
The Hofstra Alternative Spring Break crew continued to clear the last few bits of debris from our work site from the previous day, and it was especially rewarding how we worked together to reach the end result.  Once our work site had cleared, we began to assist our neighboring school group from the University of Delaware.
At their site, we were again faced with the daunting task of removing more personal items of the home’s former occupants which were damaged in the flood. Every item was a reminder of the importance of what we are doing and made us even more motivated to continue our work.
One of the highlights of our day was helping to remove the concrete foundation of the old house to prepare for the building of a new home in the future. We found that some of our teammates have a real passion for concrete foundation removal and it was a lot of fun mixed in with a lot of hard work. Some even willingly gave up their lunch time to continue working.

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We have to break up the foundation.
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And then we can remove it!

Perhaps the most important lesson learned this afternoon was “patience.” What we are realizing is that the goal of our work here is to bring about positive change in the Bayboro community that can be seen in the future—not for immediate gratification. The point of community service is not to get praised or complimented by the progress that your work has brought, but for a person to feel secure in the fact that they did a good thing for the sake of others.

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It’s all about patience and teamwork!

In the evening after reflection, we enjoyed the night with the world’s biggest Apples to Apples game (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but it was pretty big!). It was nice to relax and just laugh while we were all starting to feel the soreness come on from the day’s work. We are looking forward to what we will be doing next. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out!

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We may be dirty, but all the debris is finally gone!

Blog written by:  Megan Kennedy, Class of 2014; Melaine Morgan, Class of 2014; and
Jeanine Russaw, Class of 2015

From Bayboro, North Carolina– Time with the National Relief Network

Al Gore on Long Island– Climate Change, Democracy, and Al Jazeera; Oh My!

 

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Photo by Kayla Rivara.

The state of the U.S. democracy and world climate change are of two very important topics, according to former Vice President Al Gore. These were among many topics brought up at the LIA luncheonon March 8, 2013 in honor of Gore’s latest book: The Future—Six Drivers of Global Change.

The purpose of the event was to educate citizens on Long Island in the various ideas to lead the way toward an innovative economy. However, Gore used it for more than that. Climate Change was a huge topic of discussion, with a few moments of dialogue on gun control and Al Jazeera in accordance with his new book.

“On Long Island 95,000 homes were destroyed,” Gore said on climate change. “We are treating the atmosphere like a sewer.” The program moderator had numerous questions regarding Long Island’s role in future change.

Gore replied by stating that there are “numerous resources” on the island. After the conference, many had opinions on Gore’s opinions. Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute said, “I thought he was great. He really captured the aspect of environmental advocacy in businesses.”

Gore had been asked if he would run for president again. He said he would not; and Lewis said “with the successes he’s had lately and the differences he’s made, running for office would be “beneath him.”

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Meet the WRHU team on the trip: Mike Fallon, Bruce Avery, Rich DeKorte, Gary Duff, Kayla Rivara, Charlene Sanders, and I. 

as always,

—jeanine

From Boston– Sustained Dialogue Leadership 2013 Spring Conference at Harvard University!

The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network is an organization that “develops everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to improve campuses workplaces, and communities.” On Friday March 1st through Sunday March 3rd, five CCE (Center for Civic Engagement) working students (including myself) represented Hofstra Unviersity at this event.

The goal of this event was to learn as much as possible about Sustained  Dialogue with the purpose of bringing it back to our own campus and initiate the changes we would like to see.

What actually happened? Just that, and more. The five of us walked away from a weekend of networking with 20 other universities from around the nation (and one from Mexico, but more on that later), and enhanced view of how/why we will implement it at Hofstra.

Now for the most poignant question. What exactly is sustained dialogue? There is a formal definition that can be accessed and assessed by going to the SDCN website (link provided above), however after experiencing various samples of what this network has to offer, I will define it on my own terms.

Sustained Dialogue is about forging and transforming relationships between people of different or seemingly different identities, beliefs, or status for the purpose of garnering understanding or taking action.

Day One.

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This is a photo from the very first sustained dialogue in which I participated! The topic of discussion was “The issues of most importance on college campuses nationwide.” The issues focused most from this group were socio-economic status as well as the race/ethnicity barriers that fuel the aforemntioned problem. In the end, we discussed ways of facilitating conversations on these issues when returning to our repsective campuses. Represented in this picture are Ohio State, Case Western University, University of Alabama, Tecnologico de Monterey— and of course, Hofstra University!

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@etanajacobi:”I can’t be an effective leader and motivate others to make a change if I don’t know what motivates me.” #LeadershipConference

— jeanine russaw (@jMarieRussaw) March 2, 2013

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These next photos from day one are indicative of the first workshop of the conference: “Leadership Through Storytelling: People, Power, and Change.” In this, we learned the importance of the personal narrative to not only affirm one’s own sense of purpose in the field of Sustained Dialogue, but to the people one is trying to reach get a sense of who they are so they too can open up.

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Laure “Voop” de Vulpillieres is the one who facilitated this workshop. She shared her own narrative of why she became involved with Sustained Dialogue, and later we all did the same.

Day two.

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The Hofstra Representatives gathered for a group photo before what was sure to be a long day…and it was. A standout of this day were the panel of females representing organizations such as Teach for America, Bloomberg L.P., and the Bridgepan Group (discussing the value of inclusive leadership).

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Also a standout, a speaker of the evening Chris Stedman, spoke about the power had to transform his life in terms if his perspectives of people and they way they viewed him. He views Sustained Dialogue not as a way to change people’s thoughts and actions, but as a way to openly communicate with others for the purposes of understanding, education, and tolerance.

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With writer/activist Chris Stedman.

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An exploratory shot of Boston.

Day three. 

On the third day the conference wrapped up and walked through the next steps for our return to our respective institutions. After a game of “connect” in which we each spoke about what resonated with us that weekend, we got to break out into our our campus groups to discuss our next steps of action and how/why we will take what we learned with us. For Hofstra, we have agreed upon a long term goal of closing the schism between the Hofstra campus and its surrounding community, while addressing concerns of socio-economic gaps and racial divides as possible causes. However, we have also come to the understanding that this will only be possible if we receive “buy in” from our own school, so we will first make a change at Hofstra by hearing the opinion of students and faculty.image

During this time, we got to network with Harvard senior, Ekene Agu. The night before she was announced the winner of the Sustained Dialogue Essay Competition— her work to be featured in the Huffington Post very soon! After sharing our plans for our own campus, she shared with us her plans to use her economics degree and understanding of sustained dialogue when returning to North Africa (where she originally from) with the hopes of improving its international standing.

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So…what did resonate with me?  Well, everything really. An important part for me was the identifying of my own goals; my own mission statement through the telling of a personal narrative. Why do you really want to be involved with sustained dialogue? Once a person knows that, everything else comes naturally. Even more pivotal was hearing the thoughts and future actions of those I met at this conference. These two items combined placed this trip into perspective for me, and this is something we can all hopefully take from this experience as we return to our perspective schools— the journey is far from complete, but I can’t wait for what’s next.

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In closing…

This conference has been very informative and provided me with great clarity on the types of actions I would like to take and the differences I would like to see. Thank you to Mike and CCE, Etana, Blaine, Sean, and Mike for allowing me to take this journey with you.

If you are still unsure about Sustained Dialogue, feel free to check  the video above this post and visit their website: http://www.sdcampusnetwork.org/

—jeanine