POUGHKEEPSIE – Omari James participated in Dylan’s Wings of Change for a second time and plans to return for a third year. The Poughkeepsie High School junior was one of 22 members of the student government to participate in a two-day retreat at Vassar College during which they learned team building and communication exercises.
The 22 participants is an increase from 16 in the 2022 program, and this year’s group expects to visit more classrooms compared to last year, to share the exercises. Visits are expected to start before the holidays.
The program was founded in 2015 as a youth-led social and emotional learning program for all children.
“I wanted to do it again because it’s a program that’s needed in Poughkeepsie High School,” said James. “I had a really fun time rolling out the programs in my high school last year, communicating with my peers and just doing the activities with them to bring them together.
“I really hope people could be more aware of how they treat others in our school and how they could be more respectful. You don’t know how just being nice could impact someone’s day.”
This is the second year Paul Donnelly, faculty advisor for student government, scheduled Dylan’s Wings to run this program with students.
This was the first time Poughkeepsie offered members of student government to participate in the program at an off-campus site. Donnelly also arranged for Vassar students, who graduated from Poughkeepsie, to join the high school students for lunch on the first day.
“I wanted to make it a little more special to the students, and give them a treat by going off campus to have that retreat experience,” he said.
“I hope being on campus inspires them. I want them to understand they can be part of this campus as well and inspire them beyond Poughkeepsie High School.”
Ashley Brant and Robb Armstrong represented Dylan’s Wings at Vassar and led the group discussions and exercises.
“I hope they get a sense of community with each other, and spread it through their school by going into their classrooms and doing some team building and activities with them,” said Brant.
Armstrong said Dylan’s Wings would visit about 55 schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut with most of the visits coming in the fall so students could roll out the program throughout the remainder of the school year. “It’s to make school the culture and community they want to belong to,” said Armstrong.