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Tuesday November 6, 2018 at 1:06pm Age: 167 days
Category: Middle School, District


“We’re here to let you know that your local community cares about you.” With these words, Breaking the Cycle Program Director Heinrich Barth welcomed Minisink Valley eighth graders to a moving school assembly on Nov. 1. 

Breaking the Cycle is offered each year as part of our middle school's commitment to student safety and promoting a climate of respect for self and for others. The program highlights the combined efforts of principals, teachers, and law enforcement to counteract school violence by addressing its root causes: bullying, suicide ideation, peer pressure, gossip, racism, and other forms of intolerance.

Assembly speakers share personal stories of loss and make a powerful appeal to young people to value their own lives and the lives of others. The speakers’ real-life experiences illustrate the power of forgiveness and honest communication to erase the footprint of hatred and pave the way for positive change.

Students heard from Ann Marie and Patrick D’Aliso who lost their 16-year-old son to suicide. They told their son’s story and shared about the feelings of loss and guilt that overtook them for years after their unimaginable loss. They spoke to students about recognizing the signs of depression, asking for help, and opportunity to save lives with acts kindness.

Mrs. D’Aliso is a board member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Mr. D’Aliso is a retired high school health teacher and varsity football coach from Monroe-Woodbury. All their children went through Minisink Valley schools before the family moved to the Monroe area.

“I felt badly for what these families went through,” student Charlotte Evans said. “I hope it inspires all of us not to bully others, and think about other people’s feelings and the things they may be going through in their lives.”

Charles Williams, a retired chief of police, shared his story of loneliness and neglect as the child of an alcoholic parent. As an adult, years of bitterness and hatred tore at him and his family before he was able to forgive his mother and regain control of his life.

Student Chloe Loiodice felt inspired to be different, kinder. “I think I will start paying more attention to others and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” Chloe said. "It also reminded me that my parents really care about me, and I think I should showed them more respect.”

Hashim Garrett, a motivational speaker, rises to the podium with the help of forearm crutches, and something else not immediately visible. A gang-related shooting in his native Brooklyn left him paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 15. He’s trudged a perilous journey to forgiveness before he could reach students across the country with a message of non-violent conflict resolution. “Forgiving the kid who shot me was easy,” Mr. Garrett said, “Forgiving myself was the hard part.”   

“It’s a very powerful message,” said student Allison Hallihan. “If we listen, we can make a difference.”

As they exited the school auditorium, students were offered free copies of the book “Why Forgive?” by Johann Christopher Arnold.

Breaking the Cycle was founded in 1999 as a response to the Columbine school shooting. The program also fulfills requirements placed on New York schools by the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (S.A.V.E.)