Students Inspired By Holocaust Survivor and Olympic Champion Speakers At Annual HHREC High School Human Rights Institute Event

Over 300 students and teachers from 33 schools in Westchester, Putnam and Long Island NY, and Fairfield County CT attended the annual Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) High School Institute virtual event on March 16th. This year’s event featured intimate talks and Q&A with Holocaust Survivor Judith Altman and Olympic Fencing Champion Peter Westbrook. HHREC Student Institute workshops were led by experienced student facilitators to encourage open discussions, as teachers encouraged students to engage as activists or “Upstanders” in response to human rights causes.

The program began with an inspiring talk and exchange with Peter Westbrook, who spoke about the many challenges he faced as a minority youth in a sport which had known virtually no diversity, and the many lessons he learned. The event culminated with a talk and Q&A with Holocaust Survivor Judith Altmann, a member of the HHREC Speakers Bureau. Altmann spoke about her story of survival as she recounted the horrors of the Holocaust from her time at Auschwitz concentration camp, surviving a “death march” which ended in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and her indomitable will to live to become a proud citizen of the United States.

Students were also recognized for their work in promoting human rights in their schools.

  • The Richard A. Berman Leadership Award for Human Rights was awarded to Emily Hollander, Byram Hills 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 Neil Ginsberg Student “Upstander Award” was presented to Jessica Sabau, Ossining High School, in memory of the contributions and commitment made by Andy Cahn, former Assistant Director of Education for the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, who was instrumental in the creation of the High School Human Rights Institute.
  • The Andy Cahn Student “Community Service” Award was presented to Hallie Gordon and Dylan Schimel, 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.

“We were very pleased at the response from area teachers and students who joined us for our program this year” said Julie Scallero, HHREC Co-Director of Education. She added “It was very inspiring to hear from the students who were so well-prepared, and see their reactions as they heard firsthand testimonials from Judith as she shared her spellbinding story of survival, and from Peter about his amazing and powerful story of his struggle to fulfill his life goals. We believe their powerful messages will resonate for years as they help guide young minds to become more active about human rights issues, now and in the future.”

Participating schools included Ardsley High School, Blind Brook High School, Byram Hills High School, Denzel Washington School of the Arts, Dobbs Ferry High School, Eastchester High School, Edgemont High School, German International School, Harrison High School, Hastings High School, Horace Greeley High School, Irvington High School, John Jay High School, Mahopac High School, Mamaroneck High School, New Rochelle High School. North Rockland High School, North Salem High School, Ossining High School, Peekskill High School, Pelham Memorial High School, Pine Bush High School, Pleasantville High School, Ridgefield High School, Rocky Point High School, Rye Neck High School, Scarsdale High School, Sleepy Hollow High School, Somers High School, The Leffell School, The Ursuline School, Westchester Youth Alliance and White Plains High School.

The HHREC 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. Past events have been hosted in partnership with Iona College in New Rochelle. For more information visit HHRECNY.org or contact Julie Scallero at jscallero@hhrecny.org.

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