The Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School cafeteria was filled with heroes last Thursday morning, and neither Spider-Man nor Superman were in attendance.
To mark the conclusion of Anti-Bullying Month, the school held a HEROs brunch to honor students for all of their random acts of kindness throughout the past several weeks. HERO, as Principal Matthew Tsonos told the crowd on Thursday, stands for “help, encourage and respect others.”
The cafeteria was filled with about 90 students who had done just done that.
“We are excited to celebrate so many students that make great choices here at Ferri Middle School. That’s you,” Tsonos said, student-made anti-bullying posters adorning the stage behind him. “As you all know, throughout this month, we encouraged students at Ferri to stand together to choose kindness … Students were invited to attend because of their impact and their actions on the staff and around the building.”
Throughout the month of March, if a student was spotted performed a random act of kindness or encouragement, they were issued a ticket for Thursday’s brunch. Superintendent Bernard DiLullo and Assistant Superintendent Julie-anne Zarrella stopped by, as well as Police Chief Richard Tamburini and Deputy Chief Joseph Razza.
Tsonos detailed some of the students’ kind acts, such as joining the unified basketball team or helping with Above the Influence and their recycling program. Every student honored received a HERO certificate and a T-shirt identifying them as such.
One of the more notable examples of kindness came from four students – Natalia Toste, Elysia Fortunati, Shayla Pezzullo and Alexis Pezzullo. Those four stayed after school one Friday to place encouraging notes in the locker and mailbox of each and every student and teacher at Ferri.
“Hearing the stories and seeing the pride and excitement they displayed made the entire cause worthwhile,” School Resource Officer Brooke Ardito told the Sun Rise. “I know they will continue to stand up for what is right and make, not only the Ferri community proud, but also the town of Johnston.”
Ardito and Assistant Principal Fred Skipworth spoke with the Sun Rise previously at the start of Anti-Bullying Month. Reflecting on the weeks that were, Skipworth said it went off without a hitch.
Poster contests were held between classrooms, and Room 212 with Ms. Mary Ann Testa came out on top. The students in that room included Christopher Civetti, Ciarra Colon, Julian Correia, Tru Crowl, Keyari Dandy, David Davies, Nicholas DeLima, Dillon DiSano, Cameron Ferrera, Michael Fiyod, Makaila Fosu, Yiannis Fotopoulos, Ryan Guinto, Devyn Lacasse, Angel Lugo, Jayla Mainey, Michael Marchessault, Michael Marfeo, Tyra Lynn Martel, Benjamin Monahan, Brendon Paul Norris, David Pagliarini, Kaylee Peterson, Danny Quinn, Christian Richard, Andrew Ciagn-Jong Sia and Natalia Toste.
There were also several speaking engagements that were well attended. Skipworth said roughly 100 students attended a presentation from Kindness Recycled, which discussed why a kind society is necessary.
There was also an event through Chris Frenier at the Department of Corrections called “FACT: Fostering Alternative Choices and Thinking.” Frenier brought a panel of parolees to the school to talk to the students, and Skipworth said “the reaction was fantastic.”
“The kids, they gave a standing ovation at the end to everybody,” Skipworth said. “There’s a lot of good things happening here at Ferri. Here’s hoping that more good things happen.”
Tamburini took to the podium shortly before the certificate and T-shirt presentations to remind students that if they see bullying, the Johnston Police Department’s doors are always open.
“Myself and Deputy Chief Razza are here this morning to ensure you that we are with you all the way,” Tamburini said. “Every one of my officers at the Johnston Police Department hates bullying. And we’re going to do everything we can to prevent it, but we need your help. You need to be our eyes and ears in the school.”
He said students can come to his office any time with a report of physical or verbal bullying, and Johnston Police will have their back. He urged them to keep up the good work that got them invited to the HEROs Brunch in the first place.
“You can come and see me any time, day or night. I don’t make a lot of money, but I work a lot,” Tamburini said, getting a laugh from the students. “So I’m there for you, Deputy Chief Razza’s there for you, and I just want to quickly say congratulations. I understand that you guys did a great job, and we’re very proud of you.”