Extensively trained and thoroughly dedicated to their well-defined mission, the enthusiastic teenagers who comprise Huntington High School’s A World of Difference club are set to roll up their sleeves and begin their important work.
AWOD members participate in projects that promote unity among Huntington High School’s various ethnic and racial groups. The club’s ranks were replenished following last summer’s graduation during a recent five hour evening training session.
Huntington's AWOD club recently
held a training session.
Club veterans and newcomers alike “came together to learn about tolerance and how recognizing diversity and encouraging others to do so can improve their community,” said teacher Suzi Biagi, who serves as the organization’s faculty advisor along with retired librarian Camille DeCanio.
This year’s AWOD officers included co-Presidents Dani Black and Mardnie Mentor, co-Vice Presidents Quinn Blackburn and Samantha Maixner, co-Treasurers Jay Ryan Schmidt and Sky Cameron co-Secretaries Christina Brilliante and Cailan Polishook and co-Historian’s Naomi Ponce and Brandon Gomez-Quintanilla.
The officers participated in several planning sessions prior to the recent peer training to organize the evening’s activities and insure they were meaningful for everyone. “It was the first of many sessions for the veteran trainers and the novices,” Ms. Biagi said.
“Resilience” was the theme for the extended training session. “It encompassed getting to know each other, how to utilize supports, finding the ‘silver lining’ and appreciating unique circumstances that we all hail from,” Ms. Biagi said. “Learning about each other through various team building activities, discussion groups and assorted home grown exercises proved to be the perfect recipe for an amazing first training.”
The most important message stressed by AWOD veterans at any training session has always been “the power of one.” This year’s club members have completely bought into the premise that one person who is properly motivated can “truly make a difference.”
“We literally ran out of time with this five hour training,” Mrs. Biagi said. “We will now be running at least two more extended meetings in order to ultimately prepare for our peer mentoring activities in the spring at Woodhull Intermediate School, where every single fifth grader will be introduced to the vast world of diversity training.”
Huntington Class of 2006 member and AWOD club alum Taha Aiman was on hand for the recent training session. He shared stories of his life after high school and how his AWOD training and experiences have benefitted him through the years.
This year’s members already see the value in the club following the recent training program. “A warm and caring environment is what I would call AWOD,” senior Deanna Morales said. “For the first time in my high school tenure, I felt safe and judgment free with smiles and laughs, occasional tears and pure love for each other. I wish I had joined earlier, but coming last night was the best decision I have made all year and now I’ll be even more prepared for college and the many challenges that I may face.”
AWOD’s membership consists of a true melting pot of personalities and backgrounds. The disparate parts of the group easily came together during the recent training session.
“The students bonded immediately and are so excited about the coming year,” Ms. Biagi said. “Camille DeCanio and I are so, so proud of them and can’t wait to see what they come up with.”
Additional training sessions are set for the winter and spring. AWOD will host its annual fifth grade training program at Woodhull School next May. The Woodhull students will be led through activities similar to those provided at AWOD’s new member training. The goal of club’s peer trainers is to pass on their message of positivity and acceptance.