Area High School Students and Teachers Attend Education Event Featuring US Agency for International Development (USAID) Speaker and Second-Generation Holocaust Survivor

Over 400 students and teachers from 34 schools in Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange, Suffolk Counties and Fairfield County CT attended the 22nd Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) High School Institute event on March 14th at Iona University in New Rochelle, New York.

The program began with welcoming remarks by Millie Jasper, HHREC Executive Director and Dr. Tricia Mulligan, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Iona University. Following opening remarks, NY State Regent Dr. Frances Wills spoke about the importance of taking a stand against hate and seeking the path of becoming an “upstander”.

After the appearance by Dr. Wills, a panel of young adult activists gathered to speak to the students about human rights issues. The panel included Sam Lanoff, Program Assistant at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, who had attended the event as a student; Juan Ruiz-Diaz, a senior at University at Albany and recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Student award from NASPA; Kaitlyn Incandela, a junior at Iona University and HHREC intern; and Matthew Boggi, freshman and Clark Scholar at Manhattanville College. The panel was moderated by Manhatanville students Ethan Core and Rae Santiago.

Following the panel, HHREC GenerationsForward Speaker Lisa Salko appeared to present 13 Drivers’ Licenses, the true story of her family’s journey to Germany to reclaim the drivers’ licenses of her grandfather and uncles that had been confiscated by the Nazis over 80 years ago. Salko is the daughter of Holocaust Survivors, and her talk focused on how youth in a small Bavarian town came to terms with its darkest past about the Holocaust. The presentation was accompanied by a panel exhibition that highlighted how students reconstructed the fates of 13 people whose driving licenses were revoked because they were Jews. Salko has appeared at New York metro area synagogues, libraries, and schools, Baruch College, The Museum of Jewish Heritage, and at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel. 

The program was organized and led by HHREC Program Coordinators Jeanne Claire Cotnoir and Debbie Michen, and included 26 student workshops, as teachers encouraged their students to engage as activists or “Upstanders” in response to human rights violations.

Students Honored for Human Rights, Community Service and “Upstander” Works  

A group of students were recognized for their work in promoting human rights in their schools and communities. These honorees included:

  • The Richard A. Berman Leadership Award for Human Rights was awarded to Janira Martinez from Peekskill High School and Alexandra Camardella from Somers High School. This award is in honor of the longstanding commitment and dedication of Richard Berman to the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, and his commitment to community service and the education of ethically and socially responsible leaders for the global community.
  • The Andy Cahn “Community Service” Award was presented to Avila Lim, New Rochelle High School and Elliott Saiontz, Horace Greeley High School. This award is given in memory of the contributions and commitments made by Andy Cahn, former Assistant Director of Education for HHREC who was instrumental in the creation of the High School Human Rights Institute.
  • The Neil Ginsberg Student “Upstander” Award was presented to Na Chen, Ossining High School and Charlotte Brodbeck, Byram Hills High School. This award recognizes the contributions and commitment made by Neil Ginsberg to the Human Rights Institute for High School Student Leaders, and his dedication to the HHREC Educators Program Committee for over 20 years.

Participating schools included:  Archbishop Stepinac High School, Ardsley High School, Arlington CSD, Blind Brook High School, Byram Hills High School, Croton-Harmon HS, Denzel Washington School of the Arts, Dobbs Ferry High School, German American School, Eastchester High School, Edgemont High School, Hastings High School, Horace Greeley High School, Iona Preparatory School, John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, John Jay High School Cross River, Mahopac High School, Mamaroneck High School, Newburgh Free Academy – Main Campus, Newburgh Free Academy – North Campus, Newburgh Free Academy – West Campus, New Rochelle High School,  North Salem High School, Ossining High School, Peekskill High School, Pelham Memorial High School, Pleasantville High School, Ridgefield (CT) High School, Rocky Point High School, Rye Neck High School, Scarsdale High School, Sleepy Hollow High School, Somers High School, White Plains High School and Westchester Youth Alliance.

“We were very pleased at the response from area teachers and students who joined us for our program this year” said Steve Goldberg, HHREC Director of Education. He added “It is very encouraging to see so many students and schools turn out for a full day of learning about human rights, the history of the Holocaust, and lessons learned. We believe the powerful messages they heard today will resonate with them for years, and we hope they will remain active ‘Upstanders’ who protect and preserve human rights.”

The HHREC High School Student Institute was developed to further their mission by promoting student awareness of human rights issues on a local and global level, and to empower students to be upstanders by creating and implementing action plans in their schools and communities. HHREC has organized and offered this event to Westchester County area students and teachers since 2002. For more information visit or contact Steve Goldberg  at  

About The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center

The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in White Plains New York that serves schools, synagogues, colleges, churches and civic centers in Westchester and the greater Hudson Valley area. The HHREC Mission is to enhance the teaching and learning of the lessons of the Holocaust and the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect. HHREC works with teachers and students to help schools fulfill the New York State mandate that the Holocaust and other human rights abuses be included in their curriculum. Since 1994, the HHREC has brought the lessons of the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations to more than 3,000 teachers, and through them to thousands of students. For more information visit call 914.696.0738 email

HHREC High School Student Honorees (L to R): Na Chen, Ossining High School; Avila Lim, New Rochelle High School; Charlotte Brodbeck, Byram Hills High School; Elliott Saiontz, Horace Greeley High School; Alexandra Camardella, Somers High School; (missing: Janira Martinez, Peekskill High School)

L to R: Matt Boggi, panelist; Juan Ruiz-Diaz, panelist; Kaitlyn Incandela, panelist; Sam Lanoff, panelist

Lisa Salko, HHREC GenerationsForward Speaker

Frances Wills, NYS Regents

Student presentation on Toxic Masculinity

L to R: HHREC Education Coordinators Debbie Minchin and Jeanne Claire Cotnoir