By Anna Wong ’17
A home, a safe haven, that’s what Council for Unity provides. In Room 307, students learn lessons ranging from racism to bigotry to violence.
Council for Unity Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening communities and helping youth to be on track for college and life. The mission statement of Council for Unity is “To empower young people, individuals, and groups with the skills necessary to promote safety, unity and achievement in schools and communities.”
This program is active at Midwood High School as well as other schools like John Dewey, Seth Low, David A. Boody and more. Council for Unity has programs, also called chapters, throughout New York State, in other states, and in foreign countries.
Founded by Robert J. DeSena, an English teacher at John Dewey High School in 1975, the goal of Council for Unity was to end bullying and violence that was going on in the school at that time. He brought the gang leaders together and confronted them about their racial division. The gang leaders did not oppose each other anymore and left a legacy which inspired others.
Council for Unity is unlike any other program seeking to prevent violence and gang activity. Council for Unity creates a positive environment for students and offers a model that prioritizes family.
“It is not a program, it is a culture that replaces negative behavior and ideologies with positive ones,” said Kyle Harmon, Coordinator of Alumni Affairs at Council for Unity.
Council for Unity brings people from all different backgrounds and cultures together and teach them how they can each work for unity at their school.
“Also, all of our members are lifetime members will stay involved for the rest of their lives. In addition, Council for Unity holds parties, leadership awards, college tours, the Annual Induction Ceremony which brings over 800 youth together from our network every year at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Long Island,“ added Mr. Harmon.
The four pillars that Council for Unity stands by are FUSE: Family, Unity, Self-esteem, and Empowerment. For 42 years and counting, Council for Unity has shown a decrease in violence in communities and schools. Council for Unity is partnered with schools, communities, police departments, and prisons. Mr. Harmon, Coordinator of Alumni Affairs at Council for Unity and a member reflected his experience during his time at Council for Unity.
“Since becoming a member in 2001, I have experience personal growth and substantial change in myself and others. Through Council for Unity, I have witnessed change in places where people said there was no hope like our chapters in prisons,” said Mr. Harmon.
In 1990, the Council for Unity program began at Midwood High School. Ms. Kaufman is the teacher for that class. The Council for Unity class is an elective. Students follow a syllabus, complete classwork pertaining to the lesson, and participate in class discussions.
“Supplemental lessons about financial responsibility and growth are added such as workshops on independent living,” added Mr. Harmon.
Ms. Kaufman enjoys teaching the class and believes it is helpful to her students. Ms. Kaufman said she sees a big improvement in the behavior and performances of her students in the class.
Andre Jenkins Jr. ‘17, student in the Council for Unity class, said the class helped him come out of his shell. He participated more in his classes, became more outgoing, and more involved. Similarly, Shaquanna Watts ‘18, also a student in the Council for Unity class, said she learned how to be more confident and how to have greater self esteem towards life due to the class.
Kyle Harmon currently heads the Council for Unity afterschool program in Midwood High School on Thursdays from 3:30- 5:00 p.m.
“In the afterschool program we discuss a lot of topics geared towards the success of the youth that participate,” said Mr. Harmon.