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Be An Upstander

Senior Public Health Educator John Martin and Director of School Health Education Nancy Hemendinger, MPA, brought an interactive and informational presentation “Being an Upstander” to the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Islip Career Center (ICC). Students from 22 different Special Career Education programs at ICC participated in either the morning or afternoon session.

John Martin holding beach balls with inspiring words on them.    Nancy speaks about Acceptance and Loving Yourself.

The presentation began on a serious note as Hemendinger spoke about bullying and how people should move from silence, a bystander, to action, an upstander. She showed the students a short video Out of the Shadows about body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. “Be careful not to judge; we all need to work on that. Also, people get into the habit of putting themselves down but you need to love yourself,” she said. The resounding message was, don’t judge, we are all in this together, and beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities.

 John rallies to students to take a pledge and participate in activities.  "Nice" the response to someone sharing something about themselves.  Being an Upstander PPT slide.

Martin launched into his portion of the presentation by tossing beach balls into the audience. Words of encouragement such as ‘you are amazing’ were written on them. He lit up the room with his positive energy, persuading all the students to participate in a variety of interactive activities. He asked the students to pledge participation in the group games, even if they felt awkward and silly, because ‘we will all do it together and we will all feel awkward together like one, big, awkward, silly Islip Career Center family.’

They got to know each other through a game Martin devised. Everyone formed a circle and one-by-one each student said their name, everyone responded and said “Hi,” then the student shared what they liked to do, and the group said “Nice.” It was an ice-breaking activity that served to introduce the students to each other and pay compliments. Martin said, “Kindness is a behavior that we all need to practice. Recognizing a person and affirming what they said is important and kind.”