Mohonasen High School senior Khrystin Comerford believes it is important to break down barriers among students and even among schools.
The 17-year-old is involved in a variety of organizations, including Study Circles on Diversity in December, where a variety of local school districts, including Mohonasen, Schalmont, Duanesburg, Schenectady and Niskayuna, came together at Union College for a daylong workshop on diversity and bullying. By the end of the day, students realized they are much more alike than they think and became closer.
“It’s kind of an eye-opener for everybody. Everybody becomes like a big family,” she said.
The students then put together an action plan that took everything they learned in the study circles and brought it back to their own school districts.
She has also shadowed a student for a day at Schenectady High School, which she said was full of a diverse group of nice students.
“You’re breaking down school stereotypes. It’s a lot of fun and really enlightening,” she said.
For her efforts to prevent bullying, embrace diversity and promote acceptance, Comerford on Thursday received second place in Siena College’s 2013 Student Courage Awards. The honor goes to students in grades 6-12 who have demonstrated courage by taking positive action against racism, prejudice, bias-related violence and other forms of intolerance in their communities.
The awards were presented as part of the college’s 26th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. The event marked the 45th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination.
Comerford said she was honored and excited to receive the award. She started participating in these anti-violence programs in 10th grade.
She is involved in the Peers for Peace Club. Among the group’s events is a day of silence to represent those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who have been bullied. A Hugs Day is also planned for her school later this year.
“We’ll wear shirts and hand out Hershey Kisses,” she said.
Another project she has been involved with is selling jelly band bracelets to raise money for the Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. Comerford also participates in Color Guard and Peer Network Support Group, which mentors students who have autism.
Comerford plans to attend Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the fall to study pre-medicine. She wants to become a pediatrician.