They have impacted the lives of literally thousands of high school students across the state, and for their outreach efforts they have received an honorary proclamation from the New York State Senate.
Eight Siena College seniors and their faculty advisors were presented with the proclamation from Sen. Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany/District 44) at a Thursday morning ceremony.
The honorees created an anti-cyberbullying effort called the AT&T/Siena College Upstander Program. This innovative response to the teenage epidemic of cyberbullying was informed by the results of a 2016 survey conducted by the Siena College Research Institute under the direction of Don Levy, Ph.D., and was developed in cooperation with AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
To date, Siena’s Upstanders have visited 21 high schools throughout New York as ambassadors to educate teens about the dangers of cyberbullying and to offer peer-to-peer mentoring on how to Stand Up to those who would seek to emotionally harm others.
Noted in the proclamation were:
April Backus, Siena’s associate director of National Assessment for Service and Community Engagement, who spearheaded the creation of the entire program;
Eight graduating seniors who have been instrumental in the development of the Upstanders outreach: Nicholas Allen, Marc Badalucco, Kristina Dettori, Alyssa Lofaro, Emily Murphy, Emerald Power, Thomas Ruhl and Samuel Upson.
A friend’s personal and ultimately tragic connection with cyberbullying led Badalucco to become involved with the Upstanders.
“One of my closest friends in high school committed suicide due to being cyberbullied,” he said. “Ever since then, a lot of what I dedicated to this program and to my life has been to him. Being able to work with the high school students, being able to share our stories and experiences, will forever stick with me.”
Lofaro added that she was grateful that the Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation teamed up to create the program.
“As someone who has been bullied herself, I am so glad I had the opportunity to reach out to others,” she said. “My favorite part of the program is when the students we worked with throughout the day put on an assembly for their peers. They were always so passionate about the topic of cyberbullying and wanted to prevent it within their schools.
“I hope I showed the high school students that if you have been bullied, you are not alone.”
Sen. Breslin commended the students for their peer outreach and their dedication to combatting cyberbullying among young people.
“This will be a special memory of your time at Siena,” he said. “You took it upon yourselves to make a difference in the lives of others. Your work has touched so many students in our state, and it has planted the seeds to have those students in turn help make a difference for others.”
The eight Siena students honored in the proclamation will graduate at Siena’s Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12 at the Times Union Center in Albany.