HMTC Awards: Honoring Upstanding Students

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L. to r.: Riley Meckley, Daniel O’Niel, Rachek Leccese, and Chase Brodsky.

The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) in Glen Cove honored four students on May 6 for their courage in confronting intolerance or prejudice when they encountered it.

Those honored with the Friedlander Upstander Award — which teaches students about the Holocaust and challenges them to act against intolerance — were Riley Meckley of Port Jefferson, Chase Brodsky of Jericho, Daniel O’Neill of Manhasset, and Rachel Leccese of Mattituck.

“All of our upstanders this year had really done something that set them apart by putting themselves out there and really helping others,” says Helen Turner, the director of youth education at HMTC.

The award, founded nine years ago and funded by the Claire Friedlander Family Foundation, was set up to give scholarships to middle school, high school and college students who use their voices against bullying and intolerance.

Meckley was honored for demonstrating how she is an upstander through her daily choices, realizing that it is important to step out of your comfort zone to help others. At Gelinas Junior High School, Meckley is the student government president, which puts her in a unique position to continue to make a positive impact on her school and community.

Brodsky was honored after she learned that standing up to bullies and treating others with respect is paramount. She was recognized as an upstander for her willingness to go out of her way to make everyone feel included, while extending her friendship to all of her peers.

Leccese was honored after she had found herself being the subject of intolerance from students at school. As a result, she set to make sure they learned about religious intolerance. Lecesse organized a presentation for her school after contacting HMTC in order to stop discrimination and intolerance.

O’Neill was honored as after he decided to confront his peers that were being anti-Semitic at school. Despite being worried that he would be bullied as well, he spoke up.

“We’re really trying to encourage students to take pride in their actions for being an upstander, but also to celebrate their choices so that they really can make a difference,” Turner says. “They’re extraordinary young people.”