Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon will be one of the men leading a boys' conference at Riverhead High School Thursday.

Riverhead Central School District will host for the first time ever a series of conferences that look to provide safe spaces to make students feel welcome, more connected to their community and provide guidance to help them overcome adversity.

The first event — titled “Superintendent’s Circle: Young Men on the Rise” — is scheduled for Thursday and it will be focused on male students.

“We are inviting the boys this time, from Pulaski [Street Elementary School] through the high school to come and listen to stories of male role models who have been through adverse experiences, and who live successful lives today,” Riverhead Schools Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez said Monday.

During the event, selected male students from Riverhead High School, Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street Elementary School will hear from a number of prominent male community members, including Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, the president of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Luis Vazquez, the president and chief executive officer of the Transformative Educational Development Services Marcial Gallimore, Riverhead High School social worker Antonio Diaz and Riverhead Middle School teacher Darren Dunn. Students will be encouraged to ask questions and speak their minds.

Henriquez said that the goals for the conference will be to have male role models speak about overcoming adversity and the paths that have lead them to success; establish relationships between a student and a key contact person within their school; encourage students to value and regularly use pro-active and positive ways to maintain inner peace and help build a more peaceful community; and allow students to feel connected, respected, included and valued.

“I’m inviting these young men to come with at least one representative from their school because we talked about the difference that that one person can make,” Henriquez said. “Students who come from these adverse backgrounds, they’re pretty resilient and they can deal with difficult situations, but that one individual can make a difference, and that’s what this program is about.”

At a community meeting Monday Henriquez said that this event is one of the ways in which the district is shifting away from zero-tolerance practices and moving towards a restorative justice-based education system by adding initiatives and programs that focus on social emotional learning, self-determination, prevention, healing and community building.

“How are the [students] welcomed each day when they come to school? How are they treated, when you know, they get in trouble? How do teachers deal with them? how do other students deal with each other when we talk about bullying?” Henriquez said that those are the type of questions they are looking to address by implementing the restorative justice approach.

A conference for girls is being planned as well Henriquez said, and she is inviting the members of the community who wish to get involved to contact her.

The boys conference is scheduled for Thursday, April 18 at 12:30 p.m at the high school.

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Maria Piedrabuena
María, a multimedia reporter, graduated from Stony Brook University with degrees in journalism and women and gender studies. She has worked for several news outlets including News12 and Fortune Magazine. A native of Spain, she loves to read, write and travel. She lives in Manorville. Email Maria