It was a sight to see. Many of the 400 kids attending Theodore Roosevelt School in Weehawken came to class on Friday, Oct. 25 dressed in pink. The reason? They were showing their support for breast cancer awareness.
Posters and pink ribbons decorated the school. Students were given special pretzel ribbon treats in the afternoon. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while many of the teachers donated money to breast cancer research, the school’s Peer Leadership Team wanted to make sure the message got out to the students.
“It brings awareness to a very important subject,” said School Principal Alfred Orecchio. “And we want to make the kids, even though they’re only in this school from grades three to six, aware of the things that go on around the world.”
“Last year and the year before,” said teacher Jill Barbarise, “it was all the kids, they all wanted to be involved, so we had to really narrow it down.” Barbarise was speaking about the Peer Leadership Team, for which she is the facilitator. The group consists of students from grades five and six.
The Peer Leadership Team takes on socially-conscious projects both within the school and outside. In order to participate, students must sign up and write an essay on why they want to join the team, why peer leadership is important, and what they can contribute to the group.
“We teach kids responsibility,” says Principal Orecchio. “They go out and do things for the community. They’ll go to various hospitals, they’ll go and volunteer their time to serve kids at a function. They go to the Special Olympics, every year they go and help the kids with the bowling. This [breast cancer awareness] is one of the things [Barbarise] presented to me last week. She’s always trying to do things for kids and the school.”
Among the group’s other projects are recycling ink cartridges and conducting a Halloween drive to collect costumes for needy children, as well as contributing to an eyeglass drive sponsored by the Lion’s Club. “It’s called the Gift of Sight program,” said Barbarise. “Anytime they have broken glasses or don’t need their glasses anymore we donate to them and they repair them and send them out to South America.”
“It’s just one of many things that we do,” said Orecchio about the breast cancer awareness activities. “The kids enjoy doing it. It’s good education for them and it’s for a good cause, and it makes them feel good about themselves. They get pride in themselves doing it and they do a nice job.”
Members of the Peer Leadership Team who participated in the breast cancer awareness event were fifth graders Fiza Abid, Andrea Carranza, Natalie Jonas, Caitlin Keilty, Misha Nair, Farah Rafiq, Hadyn Roman, Angelica Sanchez, Collin Shevlin, Ashley Yang; and sixth graders Loen Albuquerque, Kathyuska Carrillo, Leviys Garcia and Marlon Martinez.
“Lessons like these in community service and simply just caring for another go beyond a textbook or test score,” said Barbarise. “These are the meaningful lessons that teachers are trained for and love to teach, where a child's energy, excitement, and a desire to make this world a better place is the most genuine testament to education.”
The ribbon pretzels were generously donated by Herr’s Food, Inc. and their representative Sherri Ankey as part of their “Herr’s Has a Heart” initiative.