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Croton Students Lead Human Rights Conferences

Croton-Harmon High School juniors and seniors led human rights-themed workshops as part of an all-day institute for high school sophomores at Iona College.
Croton-Harmon High School juniors and seniors led human rights-themed workshops as part of an all-day institute for high school sophomores at Iona College. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Croton-Harmon Schools

CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. --  Several Croton-Harmon High School seniors, juniors and sophomores took time to confer with their peers about human rights issues during the March 19 Human Rights Institute for High School Student Leaders at Iona College.

“For the past 12 years, we have sent students to the conference,” said CHHS teacher Brett Bowden, who serves on the board of the institute’s sponsoring organization, the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center. “The sophomores hear keynote speakers and then go into different workshops led by alumni from the institute.”

This year, students heard from keynote speaker Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and later from Holocaust survivor Judith Altmann.

“She was fabulous and brought students to tears with her narrative,” said Bowden. Five CHHS students led workshops for other attendees: Laura Rodriguez and Olivia Shaw presented "Native American Rights Today"; Leo DiRusso and Kyle Rossini explored "Boko Haram" and Sam Roth addressed "Rising Anti-Semitism in France."

“The kids learn a tremendous amount,” said Bowden. “The bus ride home always has a positive buzz. They really feel like they can save the world.” That, he added, is the goal of the institute.

“The big purpose is to encourage students to make up a plan and go back to their schools to create an event for Upstander Week [the week of May 18, as declared by Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino],” said Bowden.

The CHHS Human Rights Task Force Club is now meeting to plan this year’s initiative. In years past, topics have included human trafficking and raising awareness about inappropriate words that can hurt others.

“It’s very powerful stuff, and it butts up against your normal teenage life,” said Bowden. “The idea is to put the bug into kids’ heads that they can do something bigger.”

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