Stepinac Students Engage with Ukraine School Children Via Zoom

Thanks to a close relationship that Stepinac High School’s Rotary Interact Club has enjoyed with the Rotary International Club of White Plains, a group of Stepinac students recently engaged with a similar size group of school children in Ukraine during a special Zoom session. In so doing, with powerful face-to-face immediacy, it brought the war in Ukraine, nearly 6,000 miles away, into an American classroom.

The unique opportunity for the 12 members of Stepinac’s Rotary Interact Club to meet and speak with their counterparts in war-torn Ukraine ranging in ages 10 to 17 took place in one of Stepinac’s advanced 21st century classrooms equipped with large monitors.   

Jay Palylyk, a translator from Palely the Rotary Club of White Plains, helped facilitate the one-hour conversation between the Stepinac and Ukraine students. The exchange was very enlightening for the Stepinac students in getting a better understanding of what it’s like for school children to be living in a war-torn country. What they saw in the faces and heard in the voices of Ukraine’s youth was often moving.  Highlights:

Elden Agee of Elmsford “I feel being able to understand and consider circumstances that are vastly different than ours was the most rewarding takeaway from the Zoom call. I feel that we are used to only seeing things through our lens. Being on the Zoom call truly helps us to empathize and consider points of view that are different from ours.”

Julian Ramirez of the Bronx: “While on the Zoom call with the students in Ukraine, you could tell that through all of the fighting and trauma that comes with living in a war-ridden country, they still find a way to be happy and optimistic. There wasn’t a single kid there who wasn’t smiling and laughing. We often find our own lives hard and everyone fights their own real battles. But to me, watching these kids laugh and smile in the circumstances they’ve been put in, shows so much strength and resilience.’’

Thomas Breen of Yonkers: “I found that they were not too different from us. They play video games that we play and use some social media. They also are generally similar to us in how they act and what they are interested in. I hope to keep bonding with them, because I think it will be easier than I originally thought.”

The other Stepinac students who participated are: Giovanni Abate of Pleasant Valley, Joseph Acampora of White Plains; Stephan Alvarez of New Rochelle; Niall Switze of Yonkers; Brandon Chu of Yonkers; Samuel Rosenthal of Irvington; Liam Luby of Bayside; Julian Ramirez of the Bronx and William O’Brien of Tuckahoe.

The Rotary Club of White Plains invited Stepinac to join in the unique international outreach initiative as part of its May 17 fundraiser, An Evening in Support of Ukraine. A video comprising excerpts from the Zoom session will be shown to guests at the fundraiser which will be held at 6 PM at the Coliseum in White Plains. The guest speaker will be Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations.

Maria Buda, Stepinac Counseling Director who coordinated and led the Zoom session, said: “Rotary International’s motto, “Service Above Self,” fits beautifully with the values that Stepinac shares as a renowned Catholic high school,” adding: “Membership in the Interact Club allows the students opportunities to develop leadership, administrative and planning skills as they participate in this initiative and other meaningful projects.”