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Sweet Home Hosts Challenge 2 Change

Dr. Barrett works with students

On May 18, over 200 students in the Sweet Home Central School District, from Grades 4-12, convened for a first ever, district-wide student leadership summit. The inaugural event, Challenge 2 Change 2023, was an important step of the District’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiative, and was designed to launch and empower the “student voice.”

Superintendent Ginestre kicks off the event.

Themed, “Heal the Hate… Heal the World,” the leadership summit was hosted by the newly formed student group: Students ACT (Alliance for Cultural Transformation), which includes 21 student leaders from Grades 4-12.

JoAnn Balazs speaks to the students.

Under the direction of the District’s DEI Chair, JoAnn Balazs, the event featured Dr. Asiaki Dede Adjei-Barrett, who provided the keynote address on “What is your story?”, and Sweet Home Class of 2005 and recent Distinguished Hall of Fame inductee, Marquis “Ten Thousand” Burton, who inspired students with his original slam poetry.

Dr. Barrett speaks to the crowd.

Marquis Burton does slam poetry.

The event included several breakout sessions, facilitated by district administrators, teachers, staff, board of education members, and community partners. The workshops focused on How to Have Safe Conversations, Social Identity, and Breaking Down the Wall of Intolerance.  Students were encouraged to share their stories in a safe environment and appreciate how their social identities provide the lens through which they see the world.

Students work together in a breakout session.

The event culminated with students writing personal examples of observed or experienced negative social experiences on cardboard bricks. The bricks were then used to build a physical and metaphorical, “Wall of Intolerance.” The summit concluded with students symbolically “tearing down” the wall and pledging to be agents of change. Change Agents were tasked with brainstorming strategies to eliminate hateful or hurtful messages in our school community. 

Students build up wall of intolerance to be knocked down later.

The event, held at Banchetti by Rizzo’s, supported the DEI goal of the Board of Education and the District's DEI Mission: Cultivating a community where all members experience a sense of belonging.

For more information about our DEI practices, visit our page HERE.

Students ACT - Alliance for Cultural Transformation

Jay’tion Holt, GL

Mya Lipscomb, GL

Atal Jawid, HH

Endiyah Fairclough, HH

Briannah Faith, MM

Krishanu Dhar, MM

Muhamed Diedhiou, WR

Jayden Saini, WR

Thomas Hayter, MS

Elise McDuffie, MS

Mikaela Klumpp, MS

Patience Richards, MS

Samdeep Singh, MS

Jayden Ventura, MS

Elizabeth Cusack, HS

Lily Fisher, HS

Summer Mack, HS

Camryn Smith, HS

Afifa Roja, HS

Damarion Stone, HS

Hunter Tryloff, HS


Program Facilitators

Dr. Ginestre, Superintendent

Mrs. Balazs, Asst Super

Mr. Feldmann, Asst Super

Dr. Wilson, Asst Super

Ms. Shaibi, Dir Human Res

Mrs. Barillari, Dir Spec Prog

Mr. Wolf, Principal Sec Prog

Mr. Schiumo, Athletic Dir

Mr. Ryan, Principal

Mr. Polino, Principal

Ms. DeLaPlant, Principal

Mr. Perry, Principal

Mrs. Popovic, Asst Princ

Mr. Bailey, Asst Princ

Mr. Pilato, Asst Princ

Mr. Shepherd, TOSA

Dr. Luchey, Counselor

Mrs. Bruce, Teacher

Mr. Woods, Counselor

Mrs. Bennett, Teacher

Mr. Glorioso, Counselor

Mrs. Glenn, Teacher

Mrs. Buttino, Teacher

Mrs. Saini, Teacher Aide

Mrs. Januchowski, Counselor

Mrs. Mielcarek, Teacher

Mrs. Adams, Teacher

Ms. Gionis, School Psychologist

Ms. Ciezki, Social Worker

Mr. Burns, NWACC

SRO Awald, Amherst PD

Mr. Imbs, Technology Services