The following is from the Arlington Human Rights Commission.
(OMS) celebrated a Day of Respect on Friday, June 8, that began with the creation of a Chain of Respect and ended with an upbeat, outdoor assembly featuring world drumming and inspirational talks by OMS student leaders and faculty.
The day's events, organized by OMS's Building Respect Task Force and Friends of the Gay/Straight Alliance, recognized the efforts that students have undertaken this year to promote a culture of respect and encouraged more students to get involved next year in the peer leadership program and Gay/Straight Alliance. The missions of these groups are to create a welcoming, inclusive and respectful school climate for all at Ottoson.
During homeroom all students were invited to write a positive message or compliment on a "chain link," a slip of paper that was then made into a loop and attached to a large Chain of Respect. More than 500 links were created and messages included sentiments such as, "I like the teachers here," and, "We have a friendly community."
The Chain of Respect is on display in the school's lobby. Students also received a purple wristband with "Respect" on it and many students were wearing their wrist bands at the assembly.
The afternoon's assembly was kicked off by Principal Timothy Ruggere, and featured Afro-Brazilian drumming from Grooversity, a musical group created by Brazilian Marcus Santos to engage communities and promote social change through diversity awareness.
In addition to the musical performance, teacher and former OMS student Chris Mahoney spoke about his experiences at Ottoson and acknowledged that it was a difficult time for him. He recalled his first day at Ottoson when he was told by another student that the seat he was about to take in the lunchroom was "reserved for someone else" and how that made him feel awkward and unwelcome. Mahoney encouraged students to stand up against bullying by confronting the aggressor, supporting the target or seeking the help of a trusted adult.
Students Ali Jordahl, Issabelle Rose and Marcus Lewis also spoke at the assembly, encouraging others in attendance to join the “A World of Difference” program and Gay/Straight Alliance as a way to make a positive difference at OMS. Educators Nina Martorana, Emily Vincent and Melissa Keller coordinate these programs at OMS and were so proud of the students. Vincent noted that nearly all of the 500 Respect Chain links were serious and positive messages, not silly or mean-spirited.