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Pittsford Schools Unites Hundreds of Students Across Monroe County to Address Race Relations at ROC2Change Event

Pittsford Central School District hosted the 9th ROC2Change Student Summit on Race on November 22, 2019, bringing together hundreds of students from schools across Monroe County to engage in facilitated dialogue with their peers related to race, racism, the implications of internalized racism, non-racist and anti-racist behavior. Held at the Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES in Spencerport, Pittsford Mendon and Sutherland High Schools’ student-led committee planned the event and chose the theme “The Power of One” as a reminder that it just takes one person or a single action to make a positive difference.

The “Power or One” and the importance of the work carried out by students at the event was echoed in Pittsford Central School District Superintendent Michael Pero’s opening remarks to students: “Every one of us makes decisions about how we use our time. You have chosen to use your time today to make your schools, and our country, places where humanity thrives and diversity is valued. I know that your work today will make you and those you interact with better human beings – this is the purpose of “The Power of One” – as change starts with you.”

To facilitate dialogue around race relations and “The Power of One,” Pittsford’s student-led committee developed and ran the summit’s program of events, including interactive group breakout sessions which included these topics:

  • The Power of One Connection: Question and Answer Session with Keynote Speakers
  • The Power of One Comment: Identifying and Responding to Microaggressions
  • The Power of One Response: Responding to Racism, Bullying and Implicit Bias
  • The Power of One First Step: Understanding and Dismantling Systemic Racism in Rochester

Following the breakout sessions, students developed ideas to take back to their respective schools to inspire change. “I hope to bring back more of a positive environment for everyone and also more sensitivity when it comes to what we say because that is something that's needed,” said Mendon High School student Melina Golembiewski.

The keynote speakers of the summit were Serve2Unite co-founders, Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis. Pardeep Singh Kaleka lost his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting on August 5, 2012. Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist, helped to start a gang back in the 1980s that produced the shooter of that temple. Michaelis, who had given up his white supremacist lifestyle and felt driven to combat the violence he used to commit, formed an unlikely friendship with Kaleka. Together they formed Serve2Unite to foster caring and nonviolent climates in schools and communities. Click here to watch the keynote presentation.

ROC2Change was established in 2016 as students from Monroe County began to come together to address race relations in the community. Students from both PCSD high schools have joined over 500 Monroe County youth at previous ROC2Change Summits to learn about and promote change related to diversity and inclusion. Each year, two summits are organized by students who engage in facilitated dialogue with peers, working together to develop plans to be the change they believe is needed in our community.

Previous summits have focused on race and privilege, intersectionality, and raising student voices to promote awareness, competence and change. After participating in ROC2Change summits, students return to their schools to implement events or activities, to share what they have learned, and to increase dialogue and learning at each school. Recent examples of activities at PCSD include student presentations, after-school discussions and cultural activities.

To learn more about this year’s summit, please watch this video that was filmed during the event. For a behind-the-scenes look at planning the event, please watch this video that highlights our student planning efforts.