Middle School Honored as a No Place for Hate® by ADL

Left+to+right%3A+Science+Department+Chair+Ms.+Gabriele+St.+Martin%2C+Student+Services+Coordinator+Ms.+Danielle+Benvenuto%2C+Student+Council+President+Nicolas+Lama%2C+Student+Council+members+Demi+den+Bakker%2C+Briley+Crisafi%2C+and+Olivia+Beam%2C+and+Head+of+School+Mr.+Robert+Goldberg+display+the+banner+from+the+ADL.
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Middle School Honored as a No Place for Hate® by ADL

Left to right: Science Department Chair Ms. Gabriele St. Martin, Student Services Coordinator Ms. Danielle Benvenuto, Student Council President Nicolas Lama, Student Council members Demi den Bakker, Briley Crisafi, and Olivia Beam, and Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg display the banner from the ADL.

Left to right: Science Department Chair Ms. Gabriele St. Martin, Student Services Coordinator Ms. Danielle Benvenuto, Student Council President Nicolas Lama, Student Council members Demi den Bakker, Briley Crisafi, and Olivia Beam, and Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg display the banner from the ADL.

Mr. Crisafi

Left to right: Science Department Chair Ms. Gabriele St. Martin, Student Services Coordinator Ms. Danielle Benvenuto, Student Council President Nicolas Lama, Student Council members Demi den Bakker, Briley Crisafi, and Olivia Beam, and Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg display the banner from the ADL.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Left to right: Science Department Chair Ms. Gabriele St. Martin, Student Services Coordinator Ms. Danielle Benvenuto, Student Council President Nicolas Lama, Student Council members Demi den Bakker, Briley Crisafi, and Olivia Beam, and Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg display the banner from the ADL.

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Anti-Defamation League (ADL) representative Mrs. Claudia Rodriguez was on hand during this morning’s assembly to honor The Benjamin Middle School as a No Place for Hate® School, a designation that, according to the ADL’s website, “was developed to organize schools to work together and develop projects that enhance the appreciation of diversity and foster harmony amongst diverse groups.” The campaign offers resources and encourages schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice, bigotry, name calling, and bullying.

Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy lauded the students for their efforts in earning the Middle School this special designation. “You have built a community of empathy and understanding,” he told the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in attendance. “Mrs. Benjamin’s three rules in life were to ‘be kind, be kind, and be kind,’ and we need to remember to carry that out each and every day.”

While Hagy let the students know ahead of time that the Middle School would be receiving the No Place for Hate® designation, there was one surprise during the assembly. Mrs. Rodriguez unfurled two banners proclaiming the Middle School as a No Place for Hate®, one for this year and one for last year.

“You really have done a wonderful job and need to be recognized for all you have done,” she said in presenting the banners to Hagy. So everyone in attendance could see the banners, Hagy then called up several students, teachers, and administrators, including Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg and Assistant Head of School Mr. Kendall Didsbury, to display the banners.

ADL representative Mrs. Claudia Rodriguez presents Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy with a glass globe as an appreciation for his leadership.

Mr. Crisafi
ADL representative Mrs. Claudia Rodriguez presents Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy with a glass globe as an appreciation for his leadership.

The designation came just days after the entire eighth grade traveled to the Kravis Center to see Ballet Austin’s production of it’s original piece: Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. The ballet is based on the true story of Naomi Warren who, at the age of 19, was separated from her family and survived the horrors of the Holocaust despite being a prisoner at a concentration camp.

The opportunity for the eighth graders to see the ballet came on the heels of its trip to Washington D.C. where the students toured a number of monuments and museums, including the Holocaust Memorial Museum. In addition, the Middle School has also provided several other opportunities and workshops for students to broaden their sense of cultural sensitivity and global responsibility this year.

As in years past, TBS held trainings by the ADL this year for both faculty and students with follow-ups in the student’s’ advisory groups. The ADL training and the Holocaust education both emphasized the same message: that students need to be kind to one another, eliminate bias, and be allies instead of bystanders when injustice or bullying occurs.

The sixth grade will later read The Diary of Anne Frank, a play by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich based on Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. The play depicts the life of Anne Frank, a Jewish teenage girl who, along with her family, hid from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands and recorded her story in a diary.

The seventh grade learned about the importance and history of the Holocaust in history class and took a field trip to the travelling Anne Frank exhibit at Temple Beth Am on October 20. The exhibit is part of The Anne Frank Center USA, a foundation which “uses the diary and spirit of Anne Frank as unique tools to advance her legacy, to educate young people and communities in North America about the dangers of intolerance, anti-semitism, racism and discrimination, and to inspire the next generation to build a world based on equal rights and mutual respect,” according to the organization’s website, www.annefrank.com.

The trip had a profound effect upon the students. Seventh grader Grace Myers felt the purpose of going to the museum was to “gain information on the Holocaust and to learn why we should not repeat the past. My favorite part was watching the very inspiring video about Anne Frank’s diary. It showed a lot of emotion and her feelings when she was lonely.”

The students seem to understand the importance of learning from the mistakes of the past and don’t take the lessons of the Holocaust lightly. “We need to learn all about the Holocaust and all the tragedies and how we can prevent them again, how we can prevent such a horrible thing [from] happenen[ing],” said eighth grader Regan Kretz. “I can’t even put it into words how much of a tragedy it was. We need to learn about people and the past and how we can change [people’s attitudes] and respect the people that helped the Jews and other minorities.”

The focus on the Holocaust isn’t just to teach students about history and the horrible atrocities Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis, however. For Hagy, there’s a bigger picture at stake.

“The function of a school is really to educate students for success and happiness in life, but also to contribute to humanity, to make this world a better place,” Hagy explained. “How can we teach kids how to make this world a better place without studying the Holocaust, the lessons of the Holocaust?”

Upon accepting the banners from Rodriguez at Monday’s assembly, Hagy imparted to the students words of wisdom he received years ago. “When I started here at Benjamin, Mrs. Benjamin told me my resume didn’t matter. She said, ‘What does matter are your students. If you love them, they will follow you anywhere.’ That message,” said Hagy, “changed my life.”

Rodriguez also presented Hagy with a small glass globe as a thank you for his efforts in leading the Benjamin School in its designation as a No Place for Hate®. As she did so, she told the students, “I wish I had 200 Mr. Hagys because what he does for you and for your School is very special. You are very lucky to have him.”

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