Eagle Hill students build understanding through “The Power of Words”

Eagle Hill Middle School students recently participated in a series of workshops geared towards cultivating inclusivity and raising awareness of inequity. The workshops ran in conjunction with Wellness Day, which is dedicated to students’ mental, social, emotional and physical well-being.

William DeSantis, a mental health educator within the Fayetteville-Manlius School District, prefaced the workshops with a building-wide assembly keynote presentation, “The Power of Words.”

“Words are one of the most powerful tools we possess and it’s important to be aware of the words we use and understand how our words impact others and ourselves,” said DeSantis. 

Through team building activities, students were prompted to explore the similarities and differences between one another and engage in open dialogue about how to create a safe space in which students can express their feelings regarding belonging, identity and community.

Students also took part in teacher-led discussions that centered around acknowledging the influence of words and the effects of discriminatory language.

A call to action directed students to brainstorm ideas on how to stand up against words that are negative, hurtful and discriminatory.

“Replacing negative words with positive words is just one change we can make in support of mental wellness and creating an inclusive environment,” said DeSantis.

Students were reminded and encouraged to reach out to a trusted adult if they encounter discriminatory language.

Anonymous tips can be submitted using the district’s Let’s Talk online platform and students, parents, staff and community members can also share their questions or concerns about the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.