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Participation in S.T.O.P Conference starts Watervliet students taking action to address social concerns

 Respect and empathy for others were the prevalent takeaways for Watervliet Jr./Sr. High School students who participated in the 11th Annual STOP (Students Together Opposing Prejudice) Conference at Siena College on January 9.

View Times Union photo gallery SEEN: Siena College STOP Conference (Watervliet students featured in pictures 10, 23, 27, 30 and 31)

During the conference, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Siena College as part of The Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Non-violent Social Change, Watervliet students joined their peers from several other Capital Region schools to participate in large and small group activities and workshops and engage in discussions and action planning around issues of prejudice, tolerance and respect.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Amplify Respect, a message that 11th-grader Alana Favreau said resonated with her.

During our group work, we spoke about not judging other people especially based on first impressions,” said 11th grader Alana Favreau. “It’s important to get to know people and accept that we all have differences.”

Student groups worked with ADL facilitators to explore common concerns and brainstorm ways to become more involved in their schools and communities to address concerns such as bias and discrimination.

“We discussed being an ally for those who need one and what that means,” said 11th grader Arianna Green. “We also talked about being role models for younger students.”

Watervliet students agreed that the conference was a powerful experience that gave them an opportunity to meet new friends and become more aware issues that affect others.

“It was eye-opening,” said Anna Pluckrose, an 11th grader. “The activities required us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and that really makes you stop and think about what others go through every day.”

Watervliet Jr./Sr. High School Assistant Principal Loida Lewinter said the STOP conference fit perfectly with the school's No Place for Hate initiative, which aims to create a safer learning environment by promoting unity and respect and reducing bullying, name-calling and other expressions of prejudice in schools.

Mrs. Lewinter worked with advisers for the school's No Place for Hate program to select a team of student leaders to participate in the conference. The team included Lillith Bessette, Ali Changa, Tommy Changa, Alana Favreau, Arianna Green, Jimmy Griffin, Jozlyn Gross, Jane Place and Anna Pluckrose, as well as school psychologist Veronica Bedard.

View article about the STOP Conference on Siena College website