Lynbrook High School’s Student Government Association hosted its annual Human Relations Day on Feb. 13 with great success. Speakers from all walks of life presented to the students and staff, sharing their inspiring stories and educating attendees on a wide variety of topics, including sexual health, the opioid epidemic and organ donation.
The theme for the day was inspired by the popular sitcom “Friends.” Decked out in red, blue, and yellow, the students enjoyed festive activities in the cafeteria in between classes and presentations, including “Friends” trivia and a Central Perk photo backdrop, based on the popular hangout for the characters on the show.
The keynote presenter was Gian Paul Gonzalez, a motivational speaker and founder of the Hope + Future Foundation, which aspires to provide health and wellness programs for youth to give them hope in their academic, social and economic future.
Gonzalez imparted his motivational mantra, “All In,” and shared personal stories of his rise to fame through inspiring others. He urged the students to give each day their best, to work 100 percent and to never settle for anything less than greatness.
“The SGA is extremely proud of the success of Human Relations Day,” said Mary Kirby, the SGA advisor. “The message that Gian Paul Gonzalez sent through his keynote presentation is one that the students of Lynbrook need to remember each and every day. If each of us can remember to be ‘all in’ in all aspects of our lives, it will just make the world a little bit better.”
Girl Up, a United Nations campaign that empowers women, also presented at Human Relations Day, striving to produce a broader spectrum of education surrounding consent, sexual health and toxic relationships.
“We are seeing very high levels of toxic relationships prevalent in our generation and our community,” club President Djellza Pulatani explained. “When people are more educated about being safe and consensual, they tend to not be in these toxic relationships.”
Additionally at the event, recovering drug addicts from the Rockville Centre Coalition discussed their journeys to recovery and educated students on the dangers of substance abuse, the legalization of marijuana and the recent spike in vaping. The Family and Children’s Association, a nonprofit organization that provides help and hope to Long Islanders in need, also reinforced the dangers of risky behaviors, such as vaping and drug abuse.
“We teach the students to cope with issues using healthy means of stress release: exercise, meditation [and] spending time with family,” said Ruthanne McCormack, the project coordinator for the coalition. “Our message is to live drug free and not be ashamed to ask for help.”
Brian Donaldson, a Lynbrook High alumnus and teacher, shared the emotional story of his younger brother, Thomas, who died from glioblastoma brain cancer in 2017, two years after his graduation from LHS. Donaldson titled his presentation “Appreciating the Now,” expressing the importance of taking each day at a time and being grateful for what one has.
“The biggest reason to share the story about my brother is because when kids are in high school, they just want to get things over with,” he said. “They worry too much about the past or too much about the future, and they don’t appreciate what’s going on right now.”
The Long Island Trio also made a presentation and created a dialogue with the students about the processes of organ donation and transplantation. Representatives of the Trio, a nonprofit all-volunteer organization committed to improving the quality of lives touched by the miracle of transplantation through education, support, advocacy, and organ donation and transplantation awareness, said they had high hopes of persuading more youth to get involved, now that those as young as 16 can register to be an organ donor.
“The more information that students have and the more understanding they have of the process, the more likely they are to register to be a donor,” said Jeff Fenn, a foundation member.
Other organizations, such as the Viscardi School for students with disabilities, Soldier Stories, the Lynbrook Police Department, SCOPE, Camp Anchor, and the Feal Good Foundation also presented on Human Relations Day. The Viscardi School and Camp Anchor, a summer camp for children and adults with special needs, encouraged students to spread kindness and fight adversity. The other foundations sustained the common theme of helping those in need, whether it regarded firefighters who were injured in the line of duty or children who struggle to afford summer camp.
In addition to the presentations and “Friends”-themed fun provided on Human Relations Day, the SGA continued its tradition of sharing “Random Acts of Friendship.” Local restaurants and businesses donated generous gift cards, which were then provided to students and staff members selected by the SGA, giving back to those whose daily kindness is palpable within the school.
The message of kindness and friendship was eminent all day long, spread by those who organized and participated in the event. Class President Jake Belmont said he was happy about its success.
“Human Relations Day was really a great day for everyone who was involved,” he said. “The speakers were fantastic, and the students really enjoyed the opportunity to hear others’ stories. The SGA is so thankful for all of the support from the local businesses and organizations that helped make this day possible.”