Friday was an eventful afternoon for students at Sewanhaka High School, who took time to discuss and learn about bullying prevention and ways to promote leadership skills through the Islanders partnership with EVERFI's interactive anti-bullying program called Honor Code. Four-time Stanley Cup champion Clark Gillies and former Navy Seal Tony Lena offered advice to the students from their respective careers which shared an overlap of similarities in regard to teamwork and leadership.
Honor Code is an online educational program that teaches a practical approach to bullying prevention, empowers students and teaches leadership skills to promote a positive school environment. The program is targeted towards students in grades 8-10.
"Honor Code is a leadership and anti-bullying program that kids throughout Long Island can take online or in their classrooms and then discuss offline with their peers, mentors or friends," Honor Code representative Michael Ledecky said. "We had a very special event today with Clark Gillies and Tony Lena with these 60 seniors at Sewanhaka. They spoke about the importance of goal setting, resilience, courage."
The students were first split up into individual groups featuring Gillies and Lena and worked on activities that addressed leadership qualities, perseverance in the face of adversity and how the Honor Code program has positively impacted their lives.
While Gillies and Lena pursued very different careers, sports teams and the military share an interesting overlap of qualities within the leadership aspects, teamwork and camaraderie. The stakes are obviously higher on the battlefield, but lessons of working together and relying on one another translate well to hockey. And whether it was joking around in the locker room or on a C-130 plane overseas, both Gillies and Lena shared stories of keeping the mood light-hearted as a balance to preserving the time and energy needed to perform their best on the ice and at serving the United States Navy.
Gillies recalled his path to reaching the NHL, sharing stories of how he put the necessary work in to make his passion a reality, and how he learned to embrace leadership roles. He captained the team from 1977-79 and even without a letter, was an emotional leader for the Islanders.
"I talked about when I was 16, 17 years old. I was playing hockey and having a lot of fun," Gillies said. "I didn't realize that I had potential to be a professional hockey player at that time. I was just enjoying what I was doing. I had a mentor come up and tell me that if I applied myself, I would have a great future. With me, it was in hockey. That same thing applies to these kids. If you can tell them that they do have a lot of potential and they work hard, that'll take you onto college, you get a real good education, good things will happen."
The Sewanhaka students have been using Honor Code online since the start of the school year. Emani Marshall reflected on the benefit of the program and how it has enhanced her confidence to set a good example for her younger brother.
"It did help," Marshall said. "It helps me with my little brother. For him to be good and for me to be good. If I can show the leadership that I'm supposed to have for my family."
Honor Code is currently being sponsored by the Islanders throughout 12 schools across the New York metro area. For any questions on the program or inquiries on how to get your school involved with the program please contact: everfi.com/k-12