“If you see someone, greet them, have regard for them, make eye contact with them. That’s where we can make a difference. We have the ability to create a culture where not one person in our community is invisible.” This is what Unity Day is all about, according to Upper School Counselor Elizabeth Day.
GFA’s second annual Unity Day is fast approaching on October 23, and while this day began as an anti-bullying initiative, what sets it apart is its choice to shift focus from anti-bullying messaging and instead focus on what action to take.
While attending another school, junior Charles Kolin’s firsthand experience with bullying started in middle school, and he decided to act. He found his way to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, which, according to their website, “actively leads social change to prevent childhood bullying, so that all youth are safe and supported in their schools, communities, and online.”
Through PACER, Kolin was “emboldened and validated,” according to Day, and soon after came his wish to bring Unity Day to Greens Farms Academy, where Kolin transferred as a freshman. He found a natural pairing in initiatives in the student-run organization TACO (Teen Awareness and Conversation Opportunities). Together, they aim to make the community closer and safer.
This year, the group is looking to take Unity Day to a new level. Within the past year, Kolin has personally met with 23 different United States senators all over the country. His overarching goal: to increase civil discourse and make Unity Day a recognized national day.
This October, he continued his grueling work to get this bill passed through Congress, and to recognize Unity Day across the United States — which he foresees being celebrated by schools, students, and U.S. citizens alike. Kolin’s efforts have attracted the eyes of many beyond the GFA community — including New York City-based radio stations WCBS and WKTU, who interviewed Kolin last week.
The effort to pass this bill through Congress is bi-partisan, as Kolin made a point to meet with both Republicans and Democrats. During a conversation with one senator, Kolin talked extensively about bullying within politics, and challenged the senator to “step up to the plate,” asking, “What are you going to do about it? You have the power to be the better person. To make a difference.”
So, what is GFA going to do about it? We plan to celebrate! Join Kolin and TACO in various Unity Day celebrations: pumpkin-carving for a bright orange (the official color of Unity Day) display, creating decorations, listening to speakers, watching videos and more. Landscaping firm Laurel Rock of Wilton donated 45 pumpkins for display outside the McGrath Gallery throughout the month.
Today, Kolin is not a “loner,” nor is he ostracized — he is celebrated for his passion and hard work. He took an unfortunate circumstance and, alongside PACER and TACO, spun it into a positive legacy. Unity Day has changed his life — and has the power to change the lives of many others.
Students and advisors encourage the community to take note that Unity Day can live far beyond this month’s celebration.