The following letter was sent to Jewish Federation of the Desert CEO Bruce Landgarten from ADL A WORLD OF INSTITUTE ® Project Director Eva Vega-Olds after an assembly program at Amistad High School in Indio provided with funds from the Jewish Federation.
I wanted to share some thoughts about the student-run anti-bullying assembly program graciously funded by Jewish Federation of the Desert at Amistad High School in Indio in October. Because of your generosity, this school was able to have a candid conversation about the role of respect and how casual bias leads to prejudice, discrimination and even violence. They talked about bullying and the use of name-calling, and the impact of jokes on their self-esteem. They even talked about their general feeling of safety at school.
To tell you about the school, Amistad is a continuation school. They attend this school because of excessive absences, suspensions, and some have been kicked out of the high school they were attending for various other reasons. In some way or another, these students are not your typical high school students and this school doesn’t have typical school issues.
It was a heart-warming day. They were honest. They were bold. They were generous in sharing their truth. “Caleb” shared his story. He was taken away from his parents because of their drug abuse. Coming to school was hell for him because he was told he would also be a drug abuser someday by his peers. He was embarrassed and he missed a lot of school for a number of reasons not related to bullying, but the teasing made him not want to try harder. “Sisely” talked about having family with gang associations. She was told by an uncle that she was not allowed to talk with her own cousin because he believed she was “trash like her parents.” She said her face has hardened because of all of the “life she has seen,” but that didn’t mean she wished any ill against anyone else. She asked her school mates to judge her by her actions, not her family’s wrong doing and not by how they interpret her facial expressions.
It was a deeply emotional day, one I know they will not forget. They were deeply appreciative. With your help, the whole school of nearly 500 students attended ADL’s Names Can Hurt Assembly program. The Federation made a HUGE contribution to their lives and feeling of self-worth, and I thank you for it.