Students attend STOP conference on bias, discrimination

Several students are seen standing at a conference
Several Schoharie students attended the conference at Siena College on Jan. 17.

A group of Schoharie students traveled to Siena College on Jan. 17 to join peers in an effort to raise awareness of intolerance, discrimination and bullying.

The students participated in the Students Together Opposing Prejudice conference, which brings together more than 200 students from dozens of Capital Region middle schools and high schools for a workshops and discussions on issues related to prejudice, tolerance and respect.

Our students who attended included Sam Meyer-Veen, Britney Beisly, David St. George, Isabella Haley, Ashli Palmatier, Tori Harrington, Wesly Lee and Gavin Phillips.

“We talked about bias and discrimination and how that can affect everyone,” said Britney Beisly, a 10th grade student. “I think that’s important because no one should be discriminated against because of their gender or their color. Everyone’s different, but we’re all alike, somehow, someway.”

Beisly said it was a great experience to be able to meet and work with students from other schools. She said she and her peers learned to recognize discrimination and bias.

“I think that in the future, I’ll be more aware of other people and how they perceive themselves and understand more about them and what I can do to help them and other people like them,” Beisly said.

David St. George, who is also in 10th grade, said the timing of the conference was great.

“It was interesting, it brought awareness to certain social issues that are happening in schools and really all over the world. It really tied into Martin Luther King Jr. and how he preached equality,” St. George said.

One of the big focuses of the conference was on bullying and the lack of acceptance sometimes seen in schools.

“People fear what they can’t understand,” he said.

Sam Meyer-Veen, a 7th grade student, said it was an all-around positive experience.

“I think it was important because it shows us the bias in our world and helps us see how much bias there is around,” he said.

 While he said that knowing that bias is a problem was discouraging, by having students recognize and pledge to fight it is encouraging.

“I feel that new generations can attempt to make things better,” he said.

The conference is sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series and is facilitated by the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute. In addition to student participation, teachers and counselors from the schools also attend with the goal of becoming better-equipped to help their school communities navigate these issues when they return.