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  • Celebrating Kindness

    Mar 21,2017

    What an honor it was to be at the opening reception of the “Student Creative Expression Exhibit of 2017”. It was the culmination of work of students throughout the Hudson Valley; they worked on pieces expressing “Celebrating Kindness”. For me, the event was both an education and a true celebration!

    I learned from Rob Conlon, the Co-Chair of Hudson Valley GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) that the “Celebrating Kindness” exhibit has been held locally for the last ten years, and nationally for the last fifteen. It is an outcome of “No Name Calling Week” with a more positive spin. It turns out that we in the Hudson Valley, we are a model for the nation!

    Hundreds of works of art from students throughout Orange, Dutchess and Ulster Counties were on display. At JFS Orange, we helped to facilitate engagement from students of the GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances) of Washingtonville High School and the Newburgh Free Academy. Sharyn Alexander, a creative arts facilitator and a Maria Benaissa, Social Work intern opened the doors of conversation, thought and creativity. Most of the students, whose work was on display, were in attendance. It was a cherished moment, to witness these teens being recognized for their work.

    Fred Mayo, the President of the Board of Directors of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center spoke of his experience of being bullied from early on. Fred went through kindergarten twice, as he “drew outside the lines”. Thankfully, we now encourage people to do so; we respect people as they express who they are! Both GLSEN and the HV LGBTQ Center were critical in organizing the annual event. Thank you to Tess Martin, the Program Specialist and Jake Salt, Director of Programs and Services, along with Rob Conlon, who all did so much in the behind the scenes organizing!

    Our program, Teens Connect is made possible through a grant from the Orange County Youth Bureau. We also have support from the County Executive, Steven Neuhaus, who on behalf of the county wrote a proclamation declaring “No Name Calling Week” to be honored in Orange County. The ongoing support of Darcie Miller, Commissioner of Social Services and Mental Health is appreciated. And as an active member of the Cultural Equity Task Force of Orange County, we strongly advocate that it is the right of people from every culture to express themselves and develop in an environment free from oppression.

    A tapestry was woven. The students’ individual pieces were part of their school’s submission. And the schools together formed a beautifully curated exhibit. This exhibit will be on display all week-long at the FDR Library and Museum. If you have a chance, I encourage you to go! You will leave inspired and with a smile.

    There were so many moving words shared. Quotes from both FDR and Eleanor were recited. I really did get chills hearing many of them. But I’ll leave you with one of my favorites from the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”