John Philip Sousa Elementary School students perfectly positioned themselves in the shape of a yin-yang symbol on a playground last weekend in a show of togetherness marking the Port Washington school district’s Unity Day.
Students in the district participated in bonding activities and spreading unity, while learning lessons about anti-bullying and pledging to stand together.
“Unity Day has grown into a special tradition that brings our students and staff together in support of one another. They share their experiences, insights and pledge to stand up to bullying behavior,” said Kathleen Mooney, the superintendent of schools.
While individual schools participated in their own events, students throughout the district came together after classes to walk around the football field’s track to promote a united student body.
“We continue to hope that students will take away acceptance and anti-bullying from our Unity Day,” said Stephanie Joannon, the district’s director of health, physical education and athletics, 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.”
Sporting orange shirts, students, teachers, school officials and the public walked laps around the track, stopping every two laps to listen to student musical recitals.
Younger students made posters promoting unity and positivity and formed unity chains by holding hands and promising to remain united against bullying, Joannon said.
In the elementary schools, guidance counselors led students, teachers and administrators in anti-bullying activities.
Paul D. Schreiber High school students, Joannon said, participated in class discussions, talking about acceptance and tolerance toward their fellow classmates.
Teaming with student organizations, Schreiber students were also to work on promoting lessons and activities, Joannon 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.’’
Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School launched its school wide Olweus bully prevention program, highlighted by student-led discussions about issues important to Weber students, a news release from the school district said.
The program will run throughout the year to continue learning about and understanding how to prevent bullying behavior and how to create a more “open and cohesive school climate,” the release said.
“Providing educational resources and a forum like this promotes a culture of caring and communication and equips our students to act in an appropriate manner if they or one of their classmates are ever bullied,” Mooney said.
Unity Day in the district is a program of the Safety and Substance Abuse Task Force, which is funded by a grant secured by state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury).