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VOX Summit Shows Byram Hills High School Freshmen Ways to Help Others

Justin Buttar, founder of Running for Hearts, which raises money to fund children’s heart operations
The freshmen at Byram Hills High School were treated the other day to a wealth of information on ways to help people in countries around the world, and also close to home.

At the school's first VOX Summit, 10 service organizations made presentations to the 200 first-year high schoolers on projects that provide for children's badly needed heart operations in developing countries, educate at-risk girls in Kenya and help immigrants build new lives here in Westchester.

The summit was a key event in an initiative began by Melissa Stahl, chairperson of the World Languages department, to help build students' "global competency." Begun last summer, the effort grew beyond her department; she was joined by social studies teacher Ruben Torres, who enlisted his Student Leadership Board students to help.

"The summit is intended to give students an idea of how they can use their voices to help other people," she said.

Principal Chris Walsh said the summit's goal "fits squarely into the direction that we are going to go in as a district and a school."

The summit began with a keynote speech by Justin Buttar, founder of the British Columbia-based group Running for Hearts. He told the students of his transformation from "a sheltered kid in White Rock, Canada" to head of an organization that raises money through running events to fund care for children with heart defects in developing countries.

Starting Running for Hearts, he told them, "was my toughest project, but also my proudest achievement." Students attended break-out sessions, where some came away with specific ideas on what to do next. Taleen Postian said a presentation by the New Jersey-based organization The Cookstove Project offered a simple way to help. The project offers safe, efficient stoves to families in developing countries that otherwise cook over flames that give off harmful smoke and use so much firewood that children skip school time to collect it. Taleen said she could begin helping immediately simply by sending $10.

"I can mail it to some address in New Jersey, and someone will have a better way of living for ten years," she said.

At the heart of the summit's effort was the learning experience exposing students to challenges faced by others outside the school district community.

"My eyes are open," said student Cole Picca near the end of the summit. "I learned a lot."

The organizations that took part were:

Abilis http://www.abilis.us/

Bridges to Community https://bridgestocommunity.org/

The Cookstove Project http://www.cookstoveproject.org/

KEEP Girls in School http://keepgirlsinschool.org/

My Brother's Keeper https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/my-brothers-keeper

Neighbor's Link http://www.neighborslink.org/

Ronald McDonald House https://www.rmhc.org/

Running for Hearts https://www.runforhearts.com/

SHARE the Project https://sharetheproject.org/

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Byram Hills Central School District | 10 Tripp Lane, Armonk, NY 10504 | (914) 273-4082