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Students Form Tolerance Club at High School

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Kriszanna Preston, a 17-year-old senior at North Salem High School, was so impressed by guest speaker Marc Elliot at a school assembly last year that she decided this year she would to act on it.

Marc Elliot, a young man afflicted with several severe health problems, is a motivational speaker, creator of the website, Live and Let Live, and author of “What Makes You Tic? My Journey from Tourette’s to Tolerance.”

Together with two classmates, Emma Sherman and Ally McGuane, Kriszanna Preston is forming a new club. Its purpose is to defeat judgmental reasoning and promote tolerance.

Preston and her family moved from Brooklyn to North Salem when she was in seventh grade. Her mother is from the Caribbean, her father Nigerian. She quickly noticed the absence of racial diversity in her school and sometimes felt that her classmates were judging her without really knowing her. “Some of my friends have admitted it and I admire them for it. Now we’re all good friends.”

Elliot’s presentation made Preston realize that many people have undeclared issues, of which their friends and acquaintances are unaware. So the goal of the club is to bring this fact to everyone’s attention. “It’s human nature to be judgmental in high school. People can be vicious.”

The club’s first step is to introduce its concept and goals to fellow students at a couple of school-wide assemblies later this month. Afterwards students will be asked to write something personal about themselves, something few people know. For example, one might write, “My parents are both alcoholics.” These anonymous statements will then be transcribed to typewritten pages and posted in a large montage on the wall of the cafeteria. The project is entitled, If You Really Knew Me.

Preston, Sherman and McGuane feel that learning about the undisclosed problems of others will help students be less judgmental. Sherman said, “I wouldn’t say we didn’t have tolerance before, but I’d like to have more. And I’d like to be a role model for younger kids.” Maguane agreed. 

Since all three girls will graduate in June, they are hoping their club will become a permanent fixture that can be taken over by younger students and be an inspiration to all.

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