ELMSFORD, N.Y. -- Students at Alexander Hamilton Jr./Sr. High School in Elmsford learned about the act of forgiveness during a special assembly on Leadership Day, Feb. 17.
The event, which took place in the high school auditorium, included three speakers from Breaking the Cycle, an award-winning program that stresses honest communication and forgiveness as a way of resolving conflicts by incorporating the real-life experiences of people.
This is the second time the group has presented at the high school. The organization has traveled to schools across New York State and other parts of the United States in an effort to generate self-respect and respect for others, both keys to school safety. In 2008, it launched a chapter in the United Kingdom.
The speakers included Ann Marie D’Aliso, who lost her 16-year-old son Pat to suicide in 2004, Randi Kelder, whose 24-year-old brother Ryan died in 2015 of drug addiction, and Hashim Garrett, a former gangster who now runs his own consulting company called Wisdom and Understanding.
“How did we not know that our son was hurting?” D’Aliso said, as she told the students about her son’s gradual demise.
By all accounts, Pat D’Aliso was a talented and smart young man who seemed to have it all. It was only after his death that the D’Aliso family discovered he was suffering from clinical depression, according to a release from the Elmsford Union Free School District.
“If you have something going on and you feel like the pressures are too great, tell someone,” she said. “It’s not your job to take care of it.”
D’Aliso said that all she wanted to do was to be a good mother. “I failed at the one thing I wanted to do and be,” she added.
After the suicide, D’Aliso, who serves on the board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said she felt tremendous guilt and had a hard time forgiving herself for what she believed was partially her fault, the release said.
“I knew nothing about suicide. I worried about everything else, but that wasn’t in my thought process,” she said, referring to the warning signs that she should have picked up on, but didn’t.
Copies of the book, “Why Forgive?” by Johann Christoph Arnold, were also available at the talk. It includes a number of essays from people like the late New York City police detective Steven McDonald, Garrett, D’Aliso and others.
Arnold is an award-winning author who writes on marriage, parenting and end-of-life issues.