FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Close to 7,000 Franklin Township public school students joined together to take the "Stand Up for the Other" pledge on a day many people associate with love, Valentine's day.

The "Stand Up for the Other Pledge" was proposed by Co-Founder of the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition Dr. Ali Chaudry in March of 2015, and was formally launched in November 2015. Chaudry and President of the Franklin Township Interfaith Council Dr. Alex Kharazi have been promoting the pledge throughout the state.

The district is the first in the state to take the pledge and by doing so joined the New Jersey State Senators, Assembly members, NJ Attorney General, and the Franklin Township Council. Over 500 hundred members of Franklin Township's community also took the pledge at last months MLK community breakfast. 

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"I think it is especially fitting that our Franklin students took this pledge on Valentine’s Day and during Black History Month,” Dr. Kharazi said.   

“Franklin Township Public Schools prides itself on our diversity.  We have students who report over 65 different languages as their home language. We were honored that the NJ Department of Education has recognized our Elementary ESL & Bilingual Program as well as our High School ESL program by awarding us "model program" status.  

"We often hear from our graduates that attending school in such a diverse environment has helped them interact with others as adults. So when we heard about the “Stand Up for the Other” Pledge, we knew our Franklin Township Public School families would embrace it,” Superintendent Dr. John A. Ravally said in a statement released last week.  

Franklin Park School was one of the district's nine schools that held events to take the pledge together. Kindergartners at the school formed a giant heart in the school's gym and passed a small red heart to one another and said: "I will stand up for you." Fourth Graders gathered in the school's cafeteria and recited the pledge with staff, and some students shared what the pledge means to them to their fellow students. 

"The program was introduced to me at the Martin Luther King Breakfast," Franklin Park School Principal Nicol Sury said. "It received such a positive reception at that forum... It just seemed like it would have a really good fit at the elementary [school] level, so under Dr. Ravally's leadership, he suggested we find a way to make it work for elementary aged children. 

"We are very fortunate here that we have a very strong character education program as well as a positive behavior support program, where we stand under pillars of respect, responsibility, caring, and safety, so this pledge really kind of ties all these threads together." 

First Graders also lined up in a hallway and stood together to take the pledge holding up artwork expressing what the pledge means to them. One of the most popular signs was one of a sneaker designed to show why they should stand up for each other. 

"We were trying to come up with different ideas to share with the staff because we wanted them to make it their own," Franklin Park Assistant Principal Purvi Shah said. "We came up with the sneaker, because we are taking a stand and we incorporated the stand up for the other image, and now they are hanging around the school and I love it."

Councilman Charles Onyejiaka (Ward 3), Superintendent Dr. John Ravally, Board of Education President Ed Potosnak, District Policy Coordinator Mary Clark, Board of Education president Ed Potosnak, Chairman of the Human Relations Commission Gary Rosenthal, and the Head of the West African Community Foundation Foday Mansaray were also in attendance. 

"It is a privilege to be part of this history because I am an immigrant," said Onyejiaka. "I have to stand against bigotry, I have to stand against defamation, I have to stand against any for of discrimination against individuals, that is why I am here to today."

The “Stand Up for the Other” pledge reads as follows: While interacting with members of my own faith, or ethnic, or gender community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.

"What is wonderful about this school is children really are color blind they don't see each other by their race, they see each other as their friends," Sury said. "I think this message really allows them to instill the belief that we're all in this together. We all need to stand up for each other regardless of what our differences are."

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