Yesterday the middle school was visited by a very special guest, Miss York State, Claire Buffie. Clare spoke to all of our students in assemblies held in the morning. The following is a description of her mission as a contestant for the Miss America title:
Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie, is an outspoken advocate of human rights, opening the dialogue about equality amongst youth, teens and adults alike with her platform “Straight for Equality: Let’s Talk.” As Miss New York 2010, Claire aims to break the stigma of marginalized youth, eliminating discriminatory vocabulary and changing the climate in New York schools. She celebrates diversity and the things that make us all unique and strives to instill pride, dignity and respect in developing minds and compassionate hearts. This will be a year of change in New York State and Claire is ready to support this incredible movement. (from Claire Buffie’s blog: http://www.missnyorg.com/2010-Meet-MissNY.html)
Our students were very attentive to Claire’s discussion. What was most impressive to me was how well Claire’s positions align with the middle school’s approach to the problem of bullying and social and emotional literacy. Claire discussed with students that she decided to be an advocate for gay rights, or, a she stated, a “straight ally”, because her sister is gay. She saw the exclusion and the discrimination her sister faced and she wanted to use her privilege as Miss New York State to address this problem. Ms. Waters, a world language teacher at the middle school, spoke to students of the various clubs in the school that are dedicated to celebrating diversity and accepting differences in others. There is a Diversity Day club, a middle school Gay-Straight Alliance, and an elective course called Seedlings
Claire did not speak to our students only about gay rights. She also spoke about the power of bystander behavior. She asked the audience to raise their hands if they had ever been bullied. Every hand in the audience was raised. She then challenged students to step in and make a difference when someone is being bullied. This is a consistent message that our students at Jericho Middle School receive each and every day. We teach our students, the LEADER strategies. These are specific strategies students can use when they see a bullying situation: Leave no one out, Empower yourself, Amuse with humor, Distract the bully, Enlist help, Rumors stop with you, and support of the victim.
After Clare spoke, Jeff Shanzer, who is one of our teachers, spoke about his own experiences as a gay man. Mr. Shanzer told students that people should be able to accept themselves and be proud of all the things that make them who they are. We should also accept the differences we see in others; in fact that’s what makes our school so special, there are so many different kinds of people who make up our middle school family. Mr. Shanzer concluded by reminding students that every adult in the school is here to help them be successful. Mr. Shanzer spoke with courage and conviction and he made a deep impression upon our students.
The assembly was a tremendous success! Claire Buffie spoke eloquently on a serious subject that has gained attention both locally and nationally. She encouraged us to watch her compete on January 15 on ABC. We can even vote to place her in the finals, I’ll send you the link when she sends it to me. Although our students were star struck to meet a real Miss New York State, she was down to earth and she related beautifully with our middle school students.