2011-09-23 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Ana Solares, Class of 2013, Scholars’ Academy

Fumio Iwai, Deputy Consul-General; Hirohito Saigusa, Consul; Principal Brian O’Connell; and students visible, Adam and Sylaka. Partially or not visible: Dylan and Assistant Principal Toni Marie Sorrentino. Fumio Iwai, Deputy Consul-General; Hirohito Saigusa, Consul; Principal Brian O’Connell; and students visible, Adam and Sylaka. Partially or not visible: Dylan and Assistant Principal Toni Marie Sorrentino. “Human empathy has great power to do good things, and being empathetic means having the ability to sympathize with the feelings of others. When people stop feeling empathy with one another, evil creeps into the room,” stated Principal Brian O’Connell, of the Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway, during the morning message to students on the second day of school. That day, 9/9/11, Scholars’ Academy students would learn lessons they would not soon forget about two earlier days that have come to embody so much loss to so many people.

On September 9, 2011, in addition to the school’s teaching of 9/11 commemoration lessons and having a schoolwide moment of silence, seventh grade students welcomed a living example of service and dedication into their classrooms: Firefighter Lt. Kevin McCabe, stationed in Park Slope, Brooklyn during 9/11, witnessed the calamitous events unfold. “Sometimes in life, we get so caught up in what we have to do. We even get annoyed when our flight’s delayed and things like that but when a tragedy happens, it puts things in perspective. You begin to see what’s really important: your family, your friends, your loved ones,” the lieutenant told the students. Lt. McCabe recounted some of the horrific experiences to the students. One particularly disturbing experience was seeing trapped individuals jump from the Northern Tower and witnessing the tower crumble into the Marriot Hotel on the Southern Tower’s complex, where he was located. “These were people that went to work, who had families and on their way to visit families.

All of a sudden, the hopes and dreams of those people were gone,” McCabe added.

On this same day, the Scholars’ Academy welcomed two members of the Japanese Consulate; Japanese Deputy Consul General Fumio Iwai and Consul Hirohito Saigusa. The visit honored three Scholars’ Academy students who responded to a recent human tragedy: the 3/11/11 tsunami that struck Japan as a result of a 9.0 earthquake. Student Key Club members Adam Tyska, Silaka Cox, and Dylan Persaud decided to raise $5,000 for the torn nation.

The events of 3/11 devastated many communities throughout Japan. Thousands of people lost their lives and thousands more lost their homes, jobs, and schools.

Together, the three Key Club members raised $5,165.92. The funds are currently in the process of being transferred to the Ishinomaki School District with the hope that some of the funding will go to the Okawa Elementary

School which lost 90 percent of its graduating class, on their way home from school when the tsunami struck. The three Scholars’ Academy students demonstrated empathy by creatively raising the money to help the Japanese people rebuild and deal with their sorrow.

The Key Club coordinated dress down day fundraisers, sold bracelets that said “Help Japan,” and sold Japanese Flags to meet their $5,000 goal.

“Without putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, we are living a sheltered and closed off existence. I am glad we had this experience, because we are always going to remember what it was like to do something great for someone so far away,” said Key Club Adviser Ms. Rozman.

Ms. Rozman added, “In some ways, I think that [McCabe] was telling his story and sending the same message that our students were— which was to be selfless. We learn and we grow by continuously sharing to help our community.”

For the students of the Scholars’ Academy, 9/11’s commemorative activities coupled with the act of giving to those who were struck with natural disaster six months earlier on 3/11, permitted them to exercise the emotional process of empathy.

Students learned that the power of human empathy, coupled with actions, can surmount the most debilitating circumstances of unexpected tragedy.

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