After an assembly on healthy relationships by the One Love Foundation was disrupted earlier this month, Senior Class President Argetim Krasniqi led the charge to get the presentation’s full message out to fellow students.
“The purpose of the assembly was to highlight unhealthy relationships and how they play a role in our lives,” Krasniqi said. “They wanted to shine a light on the topic and show how you can help yourself or recognize that you might be the cause of an unhealthy relationship.”
Due to student disruptions, the presenter wasn’t able to finish. Krasniqi was bothered by it. “It’s something a lot of us see in our own homes with parents, family, friends and even ourselves,” he explained. “I was moved by the topic because I’ve seen enough unhealthy relationships in my life. I knew I wasn’t alone.”
After a conversation and some encouragement from teachers Al Mazzotta and Shannon Riley, Krasniqi decided he wanted to do something.
“I wanted to make this topic more important and to really get the point across,” he said. “I also wanted to let students talk to other students in a safe environment about a sensitive topic that’s not often talked about.”
Once Krasniqi made up his mind, a student-led assembly came together very quickly.
“Within thirty minutes of the assembly, Tim reached out to Nikki Horler and said that he was very bothered by what occurred,” said Assistant Principal Danielle Trippodo. Horler gave Krasniqi until the end of the week — which was about 36 hours — to pull it together.
“Nikki reached out to some of our mental health counselors, our health and physical education teachers,” Trippodo said. “And within an hour and a half Tim had already started putting together a presentation and shared it with her.”
A panel including students, teachers, and the School Resource Officer Deputy Matt Kraisky was assembled. Krasniqi organized talking points and secured microphones and tables.
“With the help of teachers and students, I was able to organize the junior and senior classes into separate assemblies where we were able to talk in an open manner,” Krasniqi said. “We even let students in the audience talk and ask the panel questions.”
“Everyone involved was in complete agreement that it was so important to have the assembly student led,” Trippodo said. “We felt students would be most receptive of communication coming from peers.”
By all accounts, the assembly was a big success. Horler started it off by going over proper etiquette and protocols during a presentation and then turned everything over to the panel.
“It was so well received by our students that were in the audience,” Trippodo said. “Seeing them so engaged with the students up on the panel was amazing.”
According to Trippodo, students in the audience asked candid, appropriate questions. “Some of the students were asking incredible questions like ‘What do you do if you observe some really unhealthy behaviors with one of your friend’s relationships?’ or ‘What’s the first thing you do to get out of an unhealthy or abusive relationship?’”
Most questions were answered by students on the panel from their perspective. Staff interjected when appropriate with specific advice and resources.
Trippodo praised all of the students and staff members who presented, but she was especially mesmerized by the students. “I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was with the students. I had to keep reminding myself that these are high school students because they presented themselves in such a professional, mature, genuine way. It was outstanding. I don’t think I blinked. I was that engaged in the presentation.”
Krasniqi seemed to look at is as a civic responsibility. “Overall it was a success,” he said. “I feel as though a good deed was done to help us grow as a community and understand each other a little more.”
Superintendent Dr. Valerie Henning-Piedmonte was incredibly proud. “A bad situation was transformed by student leaders. It’s such a great story.”