High School Student Leaders

Upstanders - High School Students

This popular event attracts students and educators from Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, and Fairfield County CT high schools, as dynamic keynote speakers cover important topics including human rights abuses and injustices, and the importance of youth leadership in confronting prejudice and discrimination.

Our High School Student Institute is intended to further our mission by promoting student awareness of human rights issues on both local and global levels, and to empower students to be Upstanders by creating and implementing Action Plans in their schools and communities.

Small-group workshops led by experienced student facilitators encourage frank discussion. Participating schools encourage and help their students to produce an activist response to some appropriate human rights cause.

Schools must be registered to participate.

Recent Keynote Speakers:


Sheila Arnold
Historic Character Interpreter

Michael Gyory
GenerationsForward Memory Keeper


Judith Altman

Holocaust Survivor

Peter Westbrook

Olympic Fencing Champion


R. Derek Black 
The subject of Eli Saslow's book, Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist


R. Derek Black 
The subject of Eli Saslow's book, Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist


Carl Wilkens
Founder World Outside My Shoes, author I'm Not Leaving


Scarlett Lewis
Executive Director
Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation


Danielle Butin
Executive Director
AFYA Foundation

"I am grateful I was able to take part in the Human Rights Institute and explore human rights issues with a knowledgeable group of peers who shared their own unique perspective with me. Through the student-led workshops, I learned that many human rights issues are interconnected. For example, education in developing third world countries is not accessible to many people, in part because many women and children have to walk long distances daily to get water due to water scarcity, which is also seen on a global scale. My favorite part of the conference, however, was hearing the guest speakers. I am especially glad I was able to hear Peter Westbrook and Judith Altmann speak about their own inspiring and harrowing experiences. Mr. Westbrook, an accomplished African-American and Japanese fencer, shared with us his story of perseverance, persistence, and positivity through his struggles. His caring and empowering nature continues to help young athletes, among others, to find their purpose and power in life. It was even more humbling and moving to receive a firsthand account of Ms. Altmann's journey through the Holocaust. She went through so much, yet instead of putting her memories away, she shared them with us in order to raise awareness and prevent anyone else from going through the hate and discrimination she faced. Hearing her story directly, as opposed to learning about the Holocaust in general terms, was stirring. She recounted to us her starvation, especially during the death march, and how she and her niece were able to eat a couple handfuls of grass to fill their stomachs because an SS woman looked the other way. Mr. Westbrook and Ms. Altmann's bravery and endurance through their struggles, and their missions to help others, has shown me all the ways I can help promote human rights. I hope to take advantage of what I learned and experienced during the conference to strengthen my community and do my part to improve the world."

Eileen Weisner, New Rochelle High School 

"I felt that the songs and personal stories [from the keynote speakers] shared in today's program were very effective. This showed how much the speakers were connected to and cared about their cause. This helped me feel connected and want to make even more of a change [in the world]."

- Alexander Hamilton High School 10th Grade Student

"...I learned that all people are different and small things can make the world a better place... My assumptions about people are wrong; I need to rise above judgements and now I can... An average person can make a difference."

- Carmel High School 10th Grade Student

Middle School Student Leaders

HHREC Middle School Human Rights Institute 2022

The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center hosted our 8th Annual Human Rights Institute for Middle School Student Leaders on November 15th, 16th and 17th at Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester in Rye, New York. Students and teachers from thirty public and private middle schools in the Lower Hudson-Westchester region attended. HHREC staff and area middle school teachers facilitated a breakout session on the themes of Respecting the Individual and How to Be an Upstander, and students met within groups to develop activities to implement in their schools. High School students from Byram Hills, Dobbs Ferry, John Jay (Katonah-Lewisboro) and Somers helped to facilitate the breakout sessions.

The Institute began with a keynote presentation by Sheila Arnold, CEO and Lead Performer of History’s Alive! Ms. Arnold has also performed as a Regional Storyteller at Colonial Williamsburg, the Valley Forge Teacher Institute, and at conferences across the U.S.

This program was developed to further the mission of the HHREC by laying the foundation to encourage students to become “upstanders rather than bystanders.” Participating schools included: Albert Leonard (New Rochelle); Benjamin Turner (Mount Vernon); Denzel Washington School of the Arts (Mount Vernon); Dobbs Ferry; Eastchester; Fieldstone (North Rockland); Fox Lane (Bedford); French American School; German International School; H.H. Wells (Brewster); Highlands (White Plains); Hommocks (Mamaroneck); Isaac E. Young (New Rochelle); Mahopac; Newburgh (Heritage MS, Meadow Hill Gem, South MS and Temple Academy); North Salem; Pierre Van Cortlandt (Croton—on-Hudson); Pleasantville; Port Chester; Rye Country Day School; Rye Neck; Scarsdale; Seven Bridges (Chappaqua); Somers; Westlake (Mt. Pleasant); and Woodlands (Greenburgh) middle schools.

Please contact Julie Scallero, Co-Director of Education, at for further information.


2021 Middle School Human Rights Institute

Thank you so much for your very interesting event – Sheila Arnold has a great stage presence! Our students enjoyed the event so much that I am thinking of doing the same for the whole class. I did one of the breakout sessions (the one with the 7 different clips on microaggressions) and that led to a vivid and in-depth discussion.
German International School

My students thoroughly enjoyed Sheila's performance and stated that they liked that it was a "story as opposed to a lecture."  They found her completely engaging and a few of them shared that they actually thought she was a slave!  Sheila is truly amazing!
My students also had such a great discussion about microaggressions.  They were excited to share their experiences and think about ways to raise awareness in our school.
                                                                                Woodlands Middle School

My students and I wanted to thank you for putting together such an engaging presentation. The breakout room lessons lead to many meaningful insights and conversations. My students were excited to bring what they learned to the rest of the Student Organization of Leaders at the school. Thank you for a wonderful experience!
                                                                                Highlands Middle School

Thank you for preparing everything for the Middle School Institute. I'm proud of my students' participation with Sheila and in our workshops.  It's a good thing we were on our own. They had so much to say during the microaggression workshop.
Albert Leonard Middle School

I have so much to report about the Institute this year.  For Pleasantville, it was the best yet!  We had a super day and did so much high-level discussion.  We are busy developing scripts that will be videoed by the district and shared on the website for all!
                                                                                       Pleasantville Middle School