Siena College’s Sarazen Student Union was transformed into a colorful and energetic conference center as almost 200 middle and high school students from about 20 Capital Region schools came together to talk about stopping prejudice and fighting violence.
Art, poetry and prose from more than 500 area school children were also on display.
“Lots of work takes place in individual schools, but this is the one place where lots of kids from lots of different schools, different economic and racial backgrounds, get together to talk about these issues which they experience every day,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Peter Ellard, Ph.D.
This annual gathering is called the STOP Conference. STOP stands for Students Together Opposing Prejudice and through small group discussions and exercises guided by A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute facilitators from the Anti-Defamation League, students developed the tools needed to do just what the acronym says.
“It taught a lot about how to stand up to people and what people should say instead of what they actually do,” said Hoosic Falls High School senior Cheryl Bisson.
School counselors and teachers joined with students in workshops that focused on promoting tolerance and respect and stopping discrimination, gang violence and bullying.
“We’re just going to stand up to people that do that and tell them, ‘this is wrong and you shouldn’t be doing this because it’s just not nice.’ Everybody needs to feel like they fit in,” Bisson said.
The STOP Conference is part of Siena’s Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series. Its goal is to celebrate King’s legacy while continuing to advance his mission of promoting equality.
“I think Dr. King was all about teaching about peace and justice and teaching against discrimination in any form, whether it has to do with weight, sexual orientation or the color of one’s skin. I think Dr. King would be proud that we’re continuing that legacy in our own way, which is certainly consistent with the mission of Siena College,” Ellard said.
For more information on the STOP Conference and other Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series events, click here.