Leadership Academy Tackles Bullying on Social Media
Over one hundred students from elementary schools from Floral Park, Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City South, West Hempstead, North Valley Stream, Stewart Manor, South Floral Park, Bellerose Village and Bellerose Terrace participated in the 2nd annual Gateway-Bulletin Leadership Academy this past weekend. The theme of the academy was “Leadership, Bullying and Social Media.” The academy took place at Northwell Health Valley Stream LIJ Hospital.
The academy was founded by the Gateway-Bulletin Newspapers as part of their community building partnership. The newspaper group is in their 90th year of existence in the greater community.
The academy featured keynote speaker Regina Agrusa, Assistant Superintendent of the Sewanhaka Central High School District. Agrusa centered her remarks on what makes each individual who they are and the strategies they can use as leaders to build bridges and bring people together. Agrusa challenged participants to participate in an exercise that made them think about who they are as well as reflect on the challenges and potential that every person has.
Northwell Health Valley Stream LIJ Hospital has been a partner with the academy since it’s inception. Steve Bello, Director of Valley Stream LIJ said, “The enthusiasm and effort from both the students and the presenters during the leadership academy session was palpable. The subject matter was incredibly appropriate and the hospital felt privileged to host such a well attended and well organized event."
Senator Elaine Phillips discussed the tools that every person has in their “tool chest” to be not only better individuals but to help one another as leaders. “It’s what we do when someone needs our help that shows us what kind of leader you are. The leadership academy is a unique outlet for our young people to interact, discuss and explore their thoughts and ideas in a positive manner.”
During the academy a leadership roundtable was held with community leaders led by Demetrius Taylor, Collins Ihaza, Marc-Anthony Tuo, Daniel Deslippe, Nassau County Police Detective Pam Stark, Senator Elaine Phillips, Khalia Whyte, Aaron Ruthman and Regina Agrusa. The roundtable tackled issues related to social media bullying, Facebook and leadership strategies. Students and adults from the audience asked questions of the panel throughout the “Town Hall Style” presentation.
During the questions and answers portion, panelists asked the audience what percentage of young people were the victims of bullying at one point or another in their young lives. The shocking answer was that over 95% of the audience replied yes. Students discussed with the panel how they should approach bullying and social media postings that were hateful, hurtful or just not true.
The percentage didn’t shock former pro basketball player Demetrius Taylor who observed, “bullying is a real issue that social media has amplified. It’s not just kids, but adults as well. The academy wanted to tackle the issue head on and discuss the strategies leaders can use to combat the problem. The give and take during the keynote speech and roundtable gave our young leaders the opportunity to talk about their ideas as well as express their own experiences.”
One student asked the panel how they would approach the issue of people not liking them or bullying them just because of their religion or race. Another asked about hateful messages and facebook posts regarding being left out or ignored. On student asked the panel what they should do when they see bullying – should they stop it themselves or get help. With each question, panelists gave their insight, experiences and thoughts. Many of them used their own examples as a guide.
During one flashpoint of the roundtable discussion, one student asked Nassau County Police Detective Pamela Starks why people use social media so destructively. Starks noted that it was a direct reflection of the individual themselves and not the victim’s fault.
Elmont Memorial High School student Marc-Anthony Tuo impressed on the students the importance of talking to peers, teachers and parents on the issue and that young people are never alone. “The academy encouraged our young people to use their various platforms to speak out on bullying which is a prominent problem that we’ve all encountered in our lives. Furthermore, showing them the importance of being leaders and making a difference was our goal,” said Tuo.
High School panelist Khalia Whyte said, “Students asked intriguing questions that showcased their potential to be great leaders. Their drive to make a difference inside and outside of the classroom was shown throughout the discussion.”
Sewanhaka High School student Daniel Deslippe was another panelist on the roundtable. He noted, “the students asked important questions and understood topics far above what is expected of their young age; it is clear that the elementary schools are churning out the next generation of thoughtful leaders when it comes to complicated issues like these.”
During the luncheon portion of the academy, students from Floral Park Memorial, Carey, Sewanhaka and Elmont Memorial High Schools talked with the students about leadership, mentoring and helping one another.
The academy concluded with a Science STEM tour of Northwell Health Valley Stream LIJ Hospital in many of the high tech areas of the hospital.
Scott Cushing, Publisher of the Gateway-Bulletin newspapers was pleased with the second installment of the academy concluding, “This session of the academy tackled a set of issues that truly impacted each and every person in that room whether you were young or old. For many, it opened their eyes to the things we can all do to combat bullying and using social media positively. As leaders, we have a responsibility to be better and to lead by example.”