WARREN, NJ – Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) students in Freshman World History Classes had the added benefit of having their lesson titled, “United Against Hate,” guest-taught by New Jersey State Sen. Tom Kean Jr, former Somerset County Sheriff’s Department Chief and K-9 Unit officer Tim Pino, and four student-leaders representing the WHRHS Diversity Club and Black Student Union. Embedded in Sen. Kean’s portion of the class was his presentation to WHRHS senior Stella DeMizio of the “Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award for Student Leadership and Dedication” from Kean University.
The lesson on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the school was for classes taught by WHRHS Social Studies Teachers Jamie Lott-Jones and Mary Sok, who are also faculty advisors to the WHRHS student Diversity Club. November is designated as “United Against Hate” month, Lott-Jones said.
In addition to Sen. Kean and Chief Pino, World History students heard a slide presentation by WHRHS seniors DeMizio and Eshika Kaul, who are co-presidents of the WHRHS Diversity Club, and Aaliyah Bouza and Nya Venson from the WHRHS Black Student Union.
The Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award is presented every year to a “student leader committed to human rights and the pursuit of social justice,” Sen. Kean said.
The Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award was created to honor a former Kean University employee on the occasion of her retirement. Prescott dedicated more than 30 years of service to students and educators through her passion for diversity training, community building, and Holocaust education, according to Kean University literature.
The winners of the award were announced at the Student Leadership Conference at Kean University on Nov. 16. Nominees had to have been students in a public or private secondary school and have demonstrated evidence of leadership roles, community involvement, or activism.
In presenting the Prescott Award to DeMizio at WHRHS in front of the World History students, Kean recalled DeMizio’s achievements as a high school student:
“Stella DeMizio is an upstander,” Kean said. “As Co-President of the Diversity Club, she has served as a leader and role model and worked diligently to create a culture of upstanders at Watchung Hills Regional High School. For the last four years, she has been a tireless crusader for human rights and social justice causes making a significant impact on her peers. Stella is a star among stars, an amazing young woman with so many talents. Her Diversity Club legacy includes the following achievements: Advocating for changes to the Watchung Hills Warrior Mascot to reflect the culture of the Leni Lenape; Creating, directing and producing a documentary video, titled, ‘We are Watchung Hills,’ that explores identity, gender, race and ethnicity at the high school; playing a vital role coordinating the anti-bully ‘White Out’ event and teaching an anti-bullying lesson to freshman health classes; and constructing a lesson on race and privilege for World History classes. Thank you for your vision and commitment to Watchung Hills.”
Kean, has been the New Jersey State Senator representing the 21st Legislative District since 2003, after having represented it in the General Assembly from 2001 to 2003. Kean has served as the Senate Minority Leader since 2008. Kean’s district represents, among other towns in Morris, Somerset, and Union Counties, Warren Township and Watchung in Somerset County and Long Hill Township in Morris County. Green Brook Township is in the 22nd Legislative District, represented by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari.
Founded in 1855 as Newark Normal School in Newark, Kean University now in Union Township, Union County, is named to honor the Kean political dynasty. For many years named Newark State College, the school moved in 1958 from Newark, to the Kean family estate in Union Township. The university is located at the ancestral home of the Kean and William Livingston families at Liberty Hall, a National Historic Landmark on the Liberty Hall Campus of Kean University. Newark State College was renamed in 1973, Kean College of New Jersey, in honor of the Kean family, and the school attained university status in 1997. The Keans, led by Sen. Kean’s father, former N.J. Assembly Speaker, Governor, Drew University President, Chair of the 911 Commission and History teacher, Tom Kean Sr., maintain close ties with Liberty Hall and Kean University.
In introducing Sen. Kean, WHRHS Social Studies Teacher Lott-Jones reminded students that Kean played a pivotal role in having the WHRHS-created word, “upstander,” recognized as a new word that is now included in the Miriam-Webster Dictionary.
“One of the ways to change history is by changing the common language,” said Kean, whose undergraduate degree in History was earned at the Ivy League school, Dartmouth College.
Students at WHRHS have been as active as any in the anti-bullying movement that has spread throughout the country during the past decade. Among the many things they did, WHRHS students helped coin the new word, upstander. The word refers to someone who is not merely a “bystander,” but rather someone who, in effect, “faces history,” and tries to do something about it. An upstander is someone who speaks or acts in support of an individual or a cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.
Sen. Kean has been an ally in the WHRHS effort to have the term accepted as a word, according to WHRHS teachers Lott-Jones and Sok. He even led the effort to have a proclamation in the New Jersey Legislature that acknowledged use of the word. That official recognition, and the fact that the state legislature discussed the word, were important achievements along the road to having dictionary officials agree that the new word “Upstander” had entered the popular lexicon, and was worthy of inclusion in the dictionary.
Reviewing the past student efforts, Lott-Jones and Sok said other activities pursued by WHRHS upstanders over the years have included: Creating documentary videos; creating lessons about diversity, acceptance and overcoming prejudice, hatred, racism and bullying; reaching out to and speaking to local middle school students in the WHRHS sending districts; and requesting and receiving guest appearances before the municipal governing bodies in Warren Township, Watchung, Long Hill Township and Green Brook Township.
At the governing bodies, the WHRHS students outlined for the local lawmakers their myriad efforts to overcome bullying. They wore T-shirts they designed, bearing the slogan, “Stand up, Speak Up, Stop Hate.” They lobbied the WHRHS Athletic Department, to hold an annual “White Out” Game against Bullying as an annual event on the Football Season home-game schedule. As in other years, the White Out Against Bullying night this year was held in conjunction with the always popular Homecoming Game.
Dano and Vader’s Law
The World History students on Nov. 28 also heard from former Somerset County Sheriff’s Department Chief Pino. For 15 years, Pino was a police K9 officer, working with his highly skilled police dog, “Dano.”
Pino explained to the students: During the course of one investigation that led to the incarceration of violent drug dealers, he was made aware of the fact that there has been threats of violent revenge and hate crimes against Dano lodged on some social media outlets.
Among his efforts to safeguard Dano, Pino said he found there was a disappointing lack of laws on the books to protect police dogs against hate crimes and retaliatory injury or death.
He immediately started a campaign to pass legislation as soon as possible to protect police dogs, he said, and in that process, he found a willing ally in Sen. Kean.
Pino told the World History students that in addition to the support of Kean, he has always found support and inspiration in the students and teachers at WHRHS.
“Whenever I come here,” Pino said. “I leave more inspired, wanting to do more.”
The students then took the “Stand Up For the Other Pledge,” repeating along with Pino: “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.”
The quartet of senior students then shared with their freshman counterparts what they had learned about issues, such as race, racism, and white or majority privilege. They shared how it is different to experience living in any environment from the perspective of being in a minority.
Students could imagine how that could be true, too, not just along racial terms, but along any lines of difference: Religion, gender-identity, along the abilities and disability spectrum, economic and income level differences, various education levels, length of time a person has been living in a community, and identity with one or another club, clique, sport, pastime or recreational pursuit, political party and place on the political spectrum right middle or left, as well as what stage in life one is and what one’s age is.
The older students cautioned the younger students to avoid making judgments about people based on generalizations and stereotypes of expectations of this or that perceived human trait, or this or that member of this or that group. Remain open to new perspectives and encourage discussions and communications where all people can speak and be heard, they said. Acknowledge that humans have an ability to learn from mistakes and make changes for the better.
“And keep asking questions,” DeMizio encouraged.
The students echoed what all the speakers on the day said, quoting the great leader from India, Mahatma Gandhi. He is the acknowledged worldwide leading theorist and advocate for non-violent peace movement against hate and injustice, and one who inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi urged one and all to set the example: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
United Against Hate
WHRHS PHOTOS All Speakers
Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) students in Freshman World History Classes had the added benefit of having their lesson titled, “United Against Hate,” guest-taught by New Jersey State Sen. Tom Kean Jr., former Somerset County Sheriff’s Department Chief and K-9 Unit officer Tim Pino, and four student-leaders representing the WHRHS Diversity Club and Black Student Union. The lesson occurred on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the school to classes taught by WHRHS Social Studies Teachers Jamie Lott-Jones and Mary Sok. From left are: Jamie Lott-Jones, Tim Pino; students Nya Venson, Aaliyah Bouza, Eshika Kaul, and Stella DeMizio; Tom Kean; and Mary Sok.
WHRHS PHOTOS Four Students Lead Discussion
From left, WHRHS seniors Aaliyah Bouza, Nya Censon, Eshika Kaul, and Stella DeMizio lead lesson titled “United Against Hate,” about race, racism and privilege, to World History Freshman classes. All the students are in the WHRHS Diversity Club. Venson and Bouza also represent the WHRHS Black Student Union. Kaul and DeMizio are co-presidents of the Diversity Club. DeMizio is also the winner of the Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award, awarded by Kean University.
WHRHS PHOTOS Sen. Kean Addresses Students
N.J. State Sen. Tom Kean speaks to WHRHS Freshman World History students about their high school’s legacy of taking a leadership role in the ongoing effort to “Speak Up Stand Up and Stop Hate,” the anti-bullying initiative. Kean, whose degree from Dartmouth is in History, shared how proud he is to have helped WHRHS students gain recognition and acceptance of the new word, Upstander: Someone who speaks or acts in support of an individual or a cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.
WHRHS PHOTOS Pino Leads Pledge
Retired Somerset County Sherff’s Department Chief Tim Pino, who was for many years a K9 Officer with his faithful, dog Dano, shared with WHRHS History students why he was motivated to get new legislation, Dano and Vader’s Law, passed and signed into law protecting police K9 dogs from hate crimes against them by criminals who want take out their revenge on the animals who helped arrest and convict them. He said he turned for help to N.J. State Sen. Tom Kean Jr., who was a willing ally. He added that whenever he has come to WHRHS to share his story, he always found inspiration from the students such as the members of the WHRHS Diversity Club. He concluded his talk by leading the students through the taking of “The Pledge, Stand Up For The Other.”
WHRHS PHOTOS Sen. Kean Reads Award Citation
N.J. State Sen. Tom Kean Jr. reads the citation detailing the achievements of WHRHS Senior Stella DeMizio as an “Upstander” in the ongoing effort to combat bullying. Her work over four years received recognition by being awarded by Kean University the Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award for Student Leadership and Dedication.
WHRHS PHOTOS Sen. Kean Congratulates DeMizio
WHRHS Senior Stella DeMizio received the congratulations of N.J. State Sen. Tom Kean for receiving the Joy Prescott Humanitarian Award for Student Leadership and Dedication from Kean University.