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New Lebanon School Embraces Diversity As Part Of Greenwich Drive

Madison Tessar, 10, right, a Grade 5 student at New Lebanon School, sits with Grade 1 student Jazmin Avelar, 6, during the Embrace Diversity day at the school. It is part of a district-wide initiative on diversity to promote safe schools.
Madison Tessar, 10, right, a Grade 5 student at New Lebanon School, sits with Grade 1 student Jazmin Avelar, 6, during the Embrace Diversity day at the school. It is part of a district-wide initiative on diversity to promote safe schools. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Normally first-grader Jazmin Avelar, 6, sits with her classmates when she is at lunch. But that was turned upside down Friday at New Lebanon School as Avelar found herself sitting beside fifth-grader Madison Tessar during a diversity initiative at the Greenwich school.

"When you are having your lunch it's nice to have a Grade 5 person sit next to you," she said shyly.

Tessar, who was one of a group of Grade 5 students who were picked to sit with the younger students, said she liked the idea.

"I think it's good because everyone gets to meet new friends and they get to learn what other people like," Tessar said.

The Embrace Diversity initiative was launched by Greenwich Public Schools to break down barriers, reinforce the safe school initiative and to remind students to respect others who may be different from them.

The majority of the schools held the day on Feb. 18.

Teachers were provided with lesson plan ideas to use during morning meetings and advisory time. Students and teachers watched a video and  engaged in discussions about the value of diversity and identify ways they can foster acceptance.

New Lebanon School psychologists Lisa Melmed and Jessica McEvily helped lead the discussions at the school. She said the school has a wide mixture of students who attend it and that the event was a way to help recognize and celebrate them.

"We have a very diverse community at New Lebanon," Melmed said. "We spend a lot of time talking about diversity, different kinds of diversity, not just cultural or ethnic diversity. Diversity in abilities, diversities in interests, a lot of different things," she said.

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