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Mount Vernon students receive encouragement for National Stop the Violence Day

Mount Vernon City Judge Nichelle Johnson

Mount Vernon City Judge Nichelle Johnson

Mount Vernon students received advice, encouragement and support Monday, November 22, 2021, from some 20 community members, including the current and former superintendents, a judge, the mayor, their peers and parents who lost children to violence.

In a webinar that lasted more than five hours for National Stop the Violence Day, the community leaders encouraged them to focus on schoolwork, not make poor choices in anger, and turn to adults for help when needed. Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton called on them to carry the message of the day forward.

“Let it be about our commitment to work together because there is power in unity and if we work together, we can indeed move mountains,” he said, wrapping up the day on Zoom.

Mount Vernon City Judge Nichelle Johnson encouraged students not to act rashly when confronted by others, but to learn to manage their emotions. What’s important, she said, is “not allowing people to upset you to the point where you do something that you can’t take back. Learning to manage your anger.” The objective: “Training yourself to rise above your emotion and learning how to de-escalate.”

Speakers included former Mount Vernon Superintendent Dr. Brenda Smith, Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, and others. They talked about not being intimidated by those who say that reporting a violent incident is being a “snitch” or a “rat.” They also talked about overcoming the stigma of seeking out mental health professionals.

Dr. Adrian Tovar, a school psychologist at Edward Williams School, talked about community programs that are available through the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau directory, which can be found online.

Students who participated talked about their focus on goals. “You need self-discipline and determination to get where you want,” said Laila Issa, a senior at the Mount Vernon STEAM Academy. “Even if you don’t have an exact destination yet. Just focus on your schoolwork.”

Nazarene Duncan, who lost her 24-year-old son to violence, said that two lives end when a homicide is committed.

“It has totally changed my life, and it can’t be reversed,” she said. “And when that person goes to jail, they lose their family. You’re told when to sleep, you’re told when to eat, when to wake up, when to bathe.”

Ryan Patrick, an alumna, told of how she had slipped in her studies and behavior while in school and was sent to the Nelson R Mandela/Dr Hosea Zollicoffer High School. But she turned her life around, and now works for a top accounting firm in Manhattan.

“I never thought I would be where I am today,” she said. In addition to having two children, she said, “I just purchased my second home, I have a career I love, and the sky is the limit.”

A key message of the day was that students have the adults in the district and their community behind them.

“We love you immensely,” Johnson, the judge, said, addressing the students. “That is why we’re having this, because we want to help.”

Alumna Ryan Patrick

 Alumna Ryan Patrick