Early Childhood Education
June 23, 2014

RFK Center and NYSUT name winners in first-ever elementary school Speak Truth To Power video contest

Source: RFK Center and NYSUT Media Relations
psa contest
Caption: RFK Center photo used under Creative Commons via Flickr user Mataparda.

Contact: Meaghan E. Baron
(917) 284-6352 | Mobile (917) 426-2823
Email: Baron@RFKCenter.org

ALBANY, N.Y. June 23, 2014 - Twenty elementary school classrooms from across the state have been selected as winners in the inaugural Speak Truth To Power "Everyone Has Rights" Public Service Announcement contest, sponsored by New York State United Teachers and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

The contest - which drew 187 entries - introduced to fourth- and fifth-graders lessons in social justice, educating them on human rights violations suffered by children their own age around the world, such as being denied access to education because of their gender or being forced into child labor.

The elementary students, ranging mostly in age from 9 to 11, put together video PSAs highlighting the indignities and plights of people from around the world. The lessons even inspired some classes to take action, like spearheading fundraisers to support organizations and charities that help those in need.

"NYSUT is proud to be part of a project that educates children about the world around them and the role that social justice plays in protecting human rights," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "It is never too early to help children realize that they can effect change."

The contest is an extension of the Robert F. Kennedy Center's Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum taught to more than one million students in the United States and around the world, from pre-school to law school. Inspired by Kerry Kennedy's book, Speak Truth To Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing the World, the curriculum provides developmentally appropriate lessons on human rights and social justice that recognize the role these topics play in children's emotional development.

"The Speak Truth To Power Everyone Has Rights PSA contest is a terrific way to teach young students about the role of human rights in our society," said John Heffernan, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center's human rights education program Speak Truth To Power. "An understanding of fundamental human rights provides students with an ability to speak out when those rights are being violated."

Ben Higgins and Joe Karb, teachers in the Springville-Griffith Central School District and members of the Springville Faculty Association, organized the competition. Each winning class was awarded $175 - $75 for a party and $100 for classroom supplies.

"Social justice is a fabric of the labor movement," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who oversees social-justice initiatives for the statewide union. "These videos by children in our schools demonstrate a culmination of sharing the values of the labor movement with the future adults of the world. It is truly our honor to support efforts such as these for the furthering of human rights."

To watch the public service announcements, go to www.everyonehasrights.com.

More on the contest and its winners also could be found at nysut.org.

Below is a list of the winning classrooms, listed alphabetically by town. Teachers are named in parenthesis.

  • Southern Cayuga Central School - Aurora ( Frank Benenati )
  • Colden Elementary School - Colden ( Kerri Voit )
  • Eden Elementary - Eden ( Tiffany Kwas)
  • Glen Head Elementary - Glen Head ( Janet Goldberg )
  • Burns Ave Elementary - Hicksville ( Lydia Butler )
  • Fork Lane School – Hicksville ( Christine Janda )
  • Dutch Lane Elementary School - Hicksville ( Betty Thoma )
  • East Street School – Hicksville ( Catherine Altobello )
  • Lee Avenue – Hicksville ( Maureen Bertolini )
  • Old Country Road Elementary School - Hicksville ( Jadwiga Slupek )
  • Homer Intermediate School (Caitlin Mack )
  • RJO Intermediate - Kings Park ( Anita Distefano )
  • Lyons Elementary, Lyons ( Angela Parker )
  • Eastplain School - North Massapequa ( Christine Imbesi )
  • Flower City School No. 54 - Rochester ( Sue DeFabbia )
  • Wilson School - Rockville Centre ( William Chiofalo ) ( Kara Spinelli ) ( Viri Pettersen )
  • Unadilla Elementary School - Unadilla (Karen Telarico )

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (Robert F. Kennedy Center) was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. RFK Speak Truth To Power's human rights school curriculum-inspired by Kerry Kennedy's 2000 book of the same name-is taught to more than one million students around the world, from pre-school to law school, from Cambodia to California. The STTP Student Video Contest was launched in New York State in 2012 and expanded nationwide in 2014, along with adding a division for elementary school students beginning in New York State.

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