Following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests in the days that followed, Paige Jones, a rising junior in the Croton-Harmon High School, began working to create a platform on which students could share their experiences, particularly for people who felt disrespected and discredited due to their race.
Not long thereafter, Paige was contacted by two of her fellow students, Maliha Ravelo and Khadia Abam-DePass, also rising juniors. Following a rally in Ossining, they expressed interest in working together to organize a rally in Croton, as well.
“Once I spoke with Maliha and Khadia, we decided pretty quickly that this was something that we wanted to do – and that we could do it,” said Paige. “We were able to get in touch with the organizers of the Ossining rally and they helped us navigate logistics. They also made clear that this needed to be youth-led, and that’s what we were determined to do.”
The group spread the word through a grassroots effort and social media posts on their personal pages. Their parents, friends and other community members helped share the information, as well.
CHHS Principal Laura Dubak, along with Superintendent Dr. Deborah O’Connell, PVC Principal Michael Plotkin, CHHS Assistant Principal Mark Maxam, STAR club advisors Ms. Schoenleber and Ms. Tracy and several other faculty members, attended the rally, which was held at Vasallo Park. They expressed their enormous pride in the students who organized, spoke at and participated in the rally.
“We recognize that this event was a student initiative and applaud their determination, hard work, and dedication. The students impressively organized every aspect,” said Mrs. Dubak. “At the same time, I, along with my colleagues, felt very strongly about being here to show our support. These are critically important conversations and I want our students to know that we support them and value their voices.”
Paige was among six speakers at the rally, which included Congressional candidate Mondaire Jones and Croton-on-Hudson Mayor Brian Pugh, among others. Moving many people to tears, her message was powerful and clear, imploring people to speak honestly, listen to one another and be respectful. “I know that we feel frustration and anger, but we need to be able to have the conversation,” she said.
Dr. O’Connell, who said that the rally was inspiring and moving, emphasized the District’s commitment to inclusion and acceptance of diversity of all kinds. “We strive for our schools to be a place where students and staff feel comfortable and valued being their unique selves and sharing their voices” said Dr. O’Connell.