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Safety, acceptance, diversity reaffirmed in Buffalo schools

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Carefully avoiding saying the words "Donald Trump," education activists Tuesday night said they are standing up for all children, no matter their race, origin, gender or national origin. The event was at Lafayette High School, where leaders reaffirmed safety, acceptance and diversity.

The elderly halls of Lafayette echo each day with dozens of languages, as students grapple with a new country, new language or new customs potentially far different from those of the country from which they came. All seek a better life through education.

School Board President Barbara Nevergold and Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said the goal is for every student to receive the best possible education in the American mosaic. City Honors 9th grader Julian Cercone said he has gone to school since the age of three with widely different people who can face attack these days.  

"Numerous hate crimes that are taking place throughout Western New York and around the entire nation that have targeted diverse groups, Cercone noted. "Because of these events, I'm not surprised that students don't feel safe in their communities or at school. That's why it's so important to stand here today in opposition to these awful events and state that people of different races, genders, religions or sexual orientations are not alone."

International Institute Language Services Director Emily Brady-Santos said Buffalo is a city of people from somewhere else.

"Buffalo is a city that was built by immigrants and its strength comes from its diversity," she said. "The International Institute has worked to support new Americans for 100 years, almost, including Italians, Polish, Hungarian and, more recently, Burmese, Bhutanese, Nepali and many other groups. Are we really all that different?"

Speakers stressed the need for adults to reassure and protect young people against the angry rhetoric and discriminatory acts contributing to a climate of uncertainty about the future of the school system's array of students.

Parent Liaison Daniel Leong said those who have been here for a while need to help the newest immigrants learn the new society.
"People before us helped us to be here and that's why I'm always looking for ways how can I help people that come after me so they can become self-dependent, self-sufficient eventually," Leong said, "and that's what we all do, especially trying to educate and help parents to get involved more in the kids' education where we didn't have it back in our country."

Leong has been in the United States for eight years. His job is to reach out to parents to help their kids and to understand how the school system works and can help them.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.