Horror to Hope
Matilda Raffa Cuomo
the wake of September 11, the children of New York City need,
more than ever, to gain an understanding of other children’s cultures.
Structured mentoring programs, like Mentoring USA, provide an
ideal opportunity for children to learn about diversity from their
mentors. Mentoring USA has made a special offer to counsel all
participants in its program on how to best deal with the tragedy,
in part by using it as a platform upon which to discuss the importance
of tolerance and peaceful resolution.
Mentoring USA’s BRAVE (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education) program
uses biographical and autobiographical material as a reading tool
to enhance children’s self-esteem and sense of cultural heritage,
to open up discussions about the heroes and experiences of various
racial, cultural, and ethnic groups and to facilitate discussions
about diversity, overcoming obstacles, and the non-violent resolution
On January 10, Bloomingdale’s unveiled its newest window, celebrating
the first National Mentoring Month and the store’s long-term partnership
with Mentoring USA.
For the past four years, 45 Bloomingdale’s employees have spent
an hour every week with at-risk third graders from nearby P.S.
59, offering the guidance and support every child needs. At the
celebration, the children joined in painting pictures in the window
that depict our society’s rich cultural diversity, and a bright
banner reminded onlookers that “Today’s Children Are Tomorrow’s
Mentoring USA’s BRAVE program received a powerful boost on January
10, when David McCourt, a father and husband who tragically lost
his daughter and wife on United Flight 175 on September 11, appeared
on the Today show with Al Roker, Michael Gould (President of Bloomingdale’s),
and with me, in front of the Bloomingdale’s window. Mr. McCourt
announced that he created the Juliana McCourt Educational Fund
to memorialize his daughter, Juliana, and had donated $90,000
to the BRAVE program, in order to help children learn to respect
and value one another as human beings.
When Mr. McCourt describes his interest in the BRAVE program,
he talks about his daughter: “Juliana, at four years old, was
an extraordinary example of a person who displayed sensitivity
to everyone’s feelings. Her gift of love to all children manifested
her mother’s love. If we can pass that gift on to create more
harmony among children, future generations will be more compassionate.
Juliana will have given the greatest spiritual gift. We are awarding
monies to the Mentoring USA program because it meets our objectives
of striving to educate young people everywhere in the virtues
of generosity, kindness and appreciation of differences among
cultures, races, and religions.”
On September 11, terrorists, who hated us so much that they would
give their own life to take ours, murdered thousands of people
and demolished our Twin Towers. But on that same day, while victims
fled the building to safety, hundreds of valiant men and women—firefighters,
police, and emergency workers—rushed into the smoke and flames
because they loved us so much they would risk their own lives
to save ours. David McCourt and BRAVE program represent this beautiful
antidote to the horror of 9/11.
We must never forget the magnificent demonstration of the American
spirit rising above the tragedy, as we embrace each other and
look to the future with hope and togetherness.#
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