Stephanie Joannon remembers the scene of Port Washington students walking around the football field’s track last year wearing orange shirts —and the sense of togetherness it inspired.
“It was like a sea of orange,” said Joannon, the district’s director of health, physical education and athletics.
The students were celebrating Unity Day, a day in which students come together to promote a united student body and promote positivity and anti-bullying.
On Oct. 19, the district was to hold its fourth annual Unity Day, and Joannon said each school participated in its own way.
Unity Day is part of the National Bullying Prevention Center and held throughout many schools around the country.
“We continue to hope that students will take away acceptance and anti-bullying from our Unity Day,” said Joannon, who organized the event with school board President Karen Sloan. “We want to preach kindness and that everyone is accepting of one another and treats everyone right.”
Students were to wear orange shirts and be given orange wrist bands saying “be kind to one another,” this year’s Unity Day slogan.
“Unity Day brings the school community together for an important message of solidarity and standing up to bullying behavior,” Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Mooney said. “While many activities will take place throughout the district on Oct. 19, the discussions and the lessons learned on this day will last a lifetime.”
Younger students were to make posters promoting unity and positivity and form unity chains by holding hands and promising to remain united against bullying, Joannon said.
In the elementary schools, guidance counselors lead students, teachers and administrators in anti-bullying activities.
“Health teachers at Weber Middle School will lead age-appropriate projects as the school kicks off its Olweus Bullying Prevention Program with group discussions during homeroom periods,” according to a news release on the event.
Paul D. Schreiber High school students, Joannon said, were to participate in class discussions, talking about acceptance and tolerance toward their fellow classmates.
Teaming with student organizations, Schreiber students were to also work on promoting lessons and activities, Joannon said.
“The schools will be doing different things to participate in Unity Day, but everyone will be together walking through the halls united,” she said.
Although unity is only celebrated during one day, Joannon said, she believes students are reminded of the day throughout the year and students continue to accept each other.
“I absolutely believe that having this day early in the year promotes unity not just on Oct. 19, but it also serves as a reminder throughout the school year,” Joannon said. “ A student could see the color orange and be reminded of it and remember the discussions about anti-bullying and acceptance.’’
During the Unity Day walk, which starts after school at 3:30, students will walk laps around the track and stop to participate in recitals and musical performances that, according to a news release, “will carry messages of kindness, acceptance and inclusion.”
“It’s really great,” Joannon said. “Students bring their instruments and we take a break from walking and they perform acoustically. We stop about every two laps to do this and it’s really interesting. It promotes unity in a musically way.”
Last year, students read passages from books and poems that they thought displayed acceptance and anti-bullying, Joannon said.
“During this time, a lot of people read some really nice things,” Joannon said. “A coach even reflected on a bullying incident from years ago in high school.”
Unity Day in the Port Washington School District is a program formed from the Safety and Substance Abuse Task Force, which is every year by grant state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) secures every year.
The task force works to educate students on substance abuse and drug safety.