By Remi Matza
At Byram Hills, students are constantly being encouraged to become advocates, to share with others their passions and attempt to inspire positive change. Whether it is our UN Developmental Goals speeches in 9th grade, our Science Research studies, our Global Scholars missions, or simply a problem we face everyday, most of us are able to identify a pressing issue in the world and become determined to help solve it.
I’m sure many of you are also familiar with the common phrase “there is strength in numbers.” So, what if we utilized this philosophy and banded together to make an even greater difference to the world we live in?
That is the mission behind Byram Hills’ very own Social Advocacy Club. This club, according to its staff director Ms. Dellacioppa, “includes several different groups or ‘sub clubs’ that exist independently from one another.” These clubs are inspired by various social issues in society today that the students themselves are passionate about. This year, the Social Advocacy Club has focused on organizations such as the Growth in Awareness Group for Alzheimer’s (GAGA), Learning Links, Pleasantville Cottage School, Neighbor’s Link, Blythedale and Maria Ferrari’s Children’s Hospital, and Students Advocating for the Environment (SAFE). However, Ms. Dellacioppa and the club’s assistant advisor Mrs. Congelossi strongly encourage students who have other interests to meet with them. The goal is that the students are free to fundraise and fulfil a mission for whichever organizations they feel passionate about, so “clubs may change each year depending on student interest.”
Both the individual Social Advocacy Clubs as well as the group as a whole have worked hard to do extremely impressive work. For instance, in September, the Alzheimer’s sub club of the Social Advocacy Club started the school year on a high note at the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s at SUNY Purchase. Alzheimer’s causes dementia, or severe memory loss in mainly people aged 65 or older. Although the disease is progressive, by the later stages of Alzheimer’s, patients have almost no awareness of their environment. The disease is not only detrimental to the patients but also to their family and friends who may no longer even be recognized by their sick loved one. Alzheimer’s is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, yet there remains no cure. Due to this, club members, whether or not personally affected by Alzheimer’s, worked tirelessly to raise over $45,000 to support Alzheimer’s research. This is the epitome of what the Social Advocacy Club stands for: working as a team to achieve profound social change.
The Social Advocacy Club additionally works with local groups such as Learning Links and Neighbor’s Link to help young students in surrounding towns. According to Ms. Dellacioppa, “in December, the Learning Links group who works directly with Mount Kisco Elementary School organized a holiday party for English as a Second Language students.” They also volunteer weekly to help tutor some of these students. Additionally, the Neighbor’s Link club runs soccer clinics once a month at the Mount Kisco Elementary School. It is important to not only focus on global issues but also to work to help those struggling in our local community, which is exactly what these clubs are doing.
Clubs such as Blythedale and Maria Ferrari’s Children’s Hospital and Students Advocating for the Environment (SAFE) have held a few bake sales to raise funds for their causes, and they hope to organize future events to further advance their work in the fields of children’s medicine and environmental preservation, respectively.
Finally, the Pleasantville Cottage School is a school and home for boys and girls ranging from around 7 to 18 years old who have unstable homes and/or emotional or mental disabilities. Many students at Byram Hills volunteer at the school once a month, where they eat, do arts and crafts, and play games with these students. According to Chloe Bernstein, a freshman who volunteers at the Cottage School monthly, “our goal is to bring light into the lives of these teenagers while simultaneously helping them learn social cues and skills.”
Ms. Dellacioppa says that “at every club event I attend, the enthusiasm is palpable.” She believes that one of the most rewarding experiences she has had as a teacher is watching her students grow into selfless leaders. Through the events planned, money raised, and awareness spread, she can proudly claim that the students in this club truly are social advocates.