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Organizations partner on program for ninth graders

Posted 10/4/22

The Utica National Insurance Group, Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN), Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) BOCES and Westmoreland Central School District are presenting an educational program for area ninth grade students called, “Overcoming Obstacles: A Message of Connection, Resilience and Hope.”

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Organizations partner on program for ninth graders

Posted

The Utica National Insurance Group, Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN), Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) BOCES and Westmoreland Central School District are partnering to present a one-day educational program for area ninth grade students called, “Overcoming Obstacles: A Message of Connection, Resilience and Hope.”

The program is scheduled to take place from 9:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica. More than 2,500 ninth grade students from 24 school districts are participating. 

The participating school districts are: Brookfield, Camden, Clinton, Frankfort-Schuyler, Hamilton, Holland Patent, Madison, Morrisville, Mt. Markham, New Hartford, New York Mills, NYS School for the Deaf, Oriskany, Remsen, Richfield Springs, Rome, Sauquoit, Stockbridge, Utica*, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, Waterville, West Canada Valley, Westmoreland and Whitesboro.

*Keynote speakers Erin Gruwell and Liz Murray, will speak to the Utica City School District’s ninth grade students at Proctor High School at 8 a.m. Oct.11 in lieu of Utica’s students attending the program.

The main purpose of the program is to encourage ninth grade students to “find that adult in your life,” as they transition from junior high to senior high and continue to navigate the many changes, challenges and hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will participate in one of more than 30 different breakout sessions, with each featuring a unique activity led by a trained facilitator centered on the themes of connection, resilience and hope. 

In the afternoon, all students will gather in the Wildcat Field House at SUNY Polytechnic Institute for a presentation by the keynote speakers.

Gruwell is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Freedom Writers Diary.” The book, and basis for the movie “Freedom Writers,” tells the story of Gruwell and her 150 at-risk students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, during the early 1990s. 

Determined to create a brighter future for her students, Gruwell turned to writing and literature to persuade them to embrace history, humanity and hope.

The parallels to their own lives emboldened Gruwell’s students to write their own journals, becoming a form of solace. When the students anonymously read each other’s journals, division was replaced with unity and understanding.

Murray is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, “Breaking Night,” and co-founder of “The Arthur Project.” The organization advocates for underserved youth – particularly youth in middle school – and works to end generational poverty through relationship-based learning. 

Once a school dropout and homeless, Murray returned to school, earned her high school diploma in just two years and won a scholarship to Harvard University, where she graduated from in 2009. She went on to receive her master’s degree in Psychology of Education at Columbia University, and her personal journey is the subject of Lifetime Television’s Emmy-nominated original film, “Homeless to Harvard.” 

As part of the program, all students will receive a free drawstring bag and journal. Students are encouraged to use their journals throughout the school year to document their thoughts and feelings – just like Gruwell’s students once did.

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