More than 120 students and faculty members spent a total of 30 hours at Amityville Memorial High School for the school’s Awareness Weekend on Nov. 13-14, an event designed to give participants an opportunity to learn about their peers and express themselves in a comfortable atmosphere.
The weekend, organized by Jason McGowan and Barbara Lynch, kicked off on Friday afternoon with keynote speaker Jamel Hudson, who delivered a message of hope and inspiration realized through working hard, setting goals, taking a stand against bullying and never giving up. Later that evening, four Amityville students shared their stories of adversity with the group and what they did to overcome those hardships.
During the program, students were put into “family groups,” where they talked about the guest speakers, participated in activities to get to know each other and performed skits to present to the rest of the group.
“Being in family group with kids I wasn’t really close to gave me an opportunity to connect with people I never thought I would have anything in common with,” said senior John Jack. “When we left that Saturday night, I felt like we were a real family.”
On Saturday morning, students enjoyed a breakfast provided by the Amityville Parent-Teacher Council and listened to guest speaker Ann Marie Da’Liso who shared the story of her son’s suicide. As a former gang member, guest speaker Hashim Garrett spoke about his trials and tribulations, living life paralyzed from the waist down after being shot. He connected with the students, and his message of forgiveness resonated with the group.
“I had one of the best weekends of my life and I was very sad when it was over,” said senior facilitator Jonas Archer. “I didn’t realize that spending 30 hours with my classmates and teachers could bring us as close as it did. I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life.”