Saturday, August 10, 2013


On August 8, 2013, the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia honored 13 extraordinary young people in the tri-state area forliving their lives as heroes.  Our Benedictine Academy Student Leadership Team, the Benedictine Cor Defenders, were awarded the YOUTH HERO AWARDS at the National Liberty Museum's 13th Annual Youth Hero Award Ceremony sponsored by TD Bank. 
"Each year the National Liberty Museum searches for young people who strive to make a difference in their school, community or beyond. This annual award, sponsored by TD Bank, recognizes young people who have championed liberty through their actions.  Acting on the principle that liberty is a right every person and community should have, the Young Heroes Award recognizes young people who have identified areas where liberty is lacking, and have taken action to make positive social change in their schools and communities.  We are looking for young people who have championed liberty through civic engagement, conflict resolution, promoting diversity and school or community leadership.  All winners receive recognition at an awards ceremony at the Museum; a certificate of recognition, medallion and gifts; and a plaque featuring their story in the Museum’s Young Heroes Exhibit." (National Liberty Museum)
Benedictine Academy's Campus Ministry Leadership Team known s the BCD's, Benedictine's Cor Defenders, were recognized for all their good works, including Hurricane Sandy comfort bags, food drive, MS fundraiser, and most especially as abolitionists against human trafficking, modern day slavery.   They listened with the ear of their hearts to the needs and suffering of the people around them and they responded with care and concern.  

The BCD's partnered with nine other schools across the country and Ken Morris, the great, great, great grandson of Frederick Douglass to write and declare on the historical steps of the Frederick Douglass site a New Proclamation of Freedom to the U.S. Government calling for an end to human trafficking, modern day slavery.  They testified before the New Jersey House Committee, alongside Assemblywoman Huttle, on a new legislation for the Protection and Prevention of Human Trafficking victims that was passed and signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in May, 2013.   They participated in a United Nations International Peace Conference spoke out at Youth Leadership Conferences, and were featured in a new Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives documentary on the importance of "Building Strong Children" through the power of education to prevent human trafficking.  

"The National Liberty Museum honors exceptional leaders in our world, known and unknown, who understand the importance of values and respect underlying a democratic society and live their lives to build peace, reduce violence, and resolve conflict in our world."  They share their stories throughout the Museum, inspiring all visitors to "live their lives as heroes" and make our world a better place.   One cannot help but be filled with both tears and hope as you walk through their three floors of over a hundred heroic tales of people's goodness, courage and love for humankind.  
Earlier this year, Linda Michalski, our Theology Chair and Teacher, received the National Liberty Museum 2013 Teacher Hero Award sponsored by State Farm.  

Benedictine Academy is truly a high school of academic excellence in both teaching and living the learned values that will make our world a better place. Our students are leaders who become knowledgeable in their field of passion and are empowered to become engaged citizens in their local and global communities.  They join forces and are mentored by both teachers and professional corporate people, gaining the wisdom and experience of their advisors.  This translates into successful graduates who attend top colleges and universities. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Four of Benedictine Cor Defenders, the Campus Ministry Student Leadership Team, Karol, Eileen, Marina and Kayla, represented the nineteen Benedictine Academy Student Leaders in Washington DC.   Karol presented a brief overview of our Anti-Human Trafficking efforts the first evening of the Jefferson Awards Ceremony.

Benedictine Academy's Jefferson Awards Ambassador Team is recognized for its outstanding leadership service as Modern Activists by answering the call of the UNODC and President Obama and the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia to become educated about the dangers of human trafficking. Benedictine Academy became the first Freedom Partner School of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. Together, the Campus Ministry Student Leadership Team at the Academy, Benedictine Cor Defenders, helped design a new educational curriculum; co-authored a New Proclamation of Freedom presented to the U.S. Government; testified before the New Jersey State legislature; and raised community awareness on Modern Day Slavery. The mission of Benedictine Academy is to empower others to become "do-gooders" and change the world to be a more humane civilization.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It was a proud day for us at Benedictine Academy to receive the 2013 National Jefferson Awards Ambassador Gold Medal in Washington, DC for best Public Volunteer Service Leadership by a High School in the United States of America.  Four Students, representing Benedictine Academy's nineteen Students In Action Leaders, attended the ceremonies.

(Left to Right: Mr. & Mrs. John Airoso (parents of Marina Santiago), Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, Marina Santiago,
Eileen Conaty, Kayla Roque, Karol Pierre, Mrs. Michalski, Mr. & Mrs. Mike Jones)

The Jefferson Gold Medal is known as the "Nobel Prize for Service".  Forty one years ago, Sam Beard, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Senator Robert Taft, Jr. co-founded the Jefferson Awards to recognize and award people who give back to our country in extraordinary ways.

This year, the National Recipient for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen was awarded to Professor Elie Wiesel.  "After winning the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Elie Wiesel started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

The Foundation's mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance, and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.  Wiesel, born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania (now part of Romania), was fifteen years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His mother and younger wiser perished; his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.  After the war, Wiesel studied in Paris and became a journalist.  The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, NIGHT La Nuit). 

Chris Wallace was the Master of Ceremonies. The National Recipients for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed official was awarded to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. They were recognized for their integrity, independence and bipartisan leadership.  Senator Leahy stands out for his leadership in immigration reform.  An important societal issue currently being reviewed by he US Senate for the protection of human rights for all people.  Senator Coburn stands out for his advocacy work of healthcare for the elderly and newborn infants.

 General Electric is the 2013 Jefferson Award Gold Medal Winner for Outstanding Public Service by a Major Corporation.  GE's commitment to citizenship and volunteerism is deeply rooted in its culture and strategy.  In the past year alone, they have donated over $220 million to communities and nonprofit organizations and directed more than $800,000 in grants to community organizations.  GE's Global Community Days brings over 300,000 employees together from over 55 countries to one geographic area on the same day for a volunteer event.

The Students In Action Program was established for young people in high school who embrace the core values for which this country stands.  In America, a place where grass roots citizens feel compelled to act with compassion to help others and make a strong impact in our society for the better, there are over 325 high school who are implementing the Jefferson Awards Students In Action Public Volunteer Service Program and following the seven directives to develop active citizenship in their schools .

 On the highest level, there are only five Ambassador High Schools who also serve as Mentors, bright lights to other high schools, while engaging, training and building a a culture of volunteerism among their peers. Benedictine Academy was the proud recipient of the 2013 National Jefferson Awards Ambassador Gold Medal in Washington, DC for best Public Volunteer Service Leadership by a High School in the United States of America.

(My apologies for my shaky video taping.)

 Our students were recognized as champion do-gooders, whose social responsibility efforts have made a visible, measurable impact on our society.  They collaborated and partnered with others in the community to work for the dignity of humankind.  To stand next to such great people in history as Professor Elie Wiesel is the most humbling experience.  

We are truly grateful to the Lord for using us as His instrument for peace and justice in the world.  

Other National Award Recipients include Dolores Huerta for her lifetime of public service for labor and civil rights, co-founding he National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez.  She began a lifetime crusade to correct economic injustice.  She has directed UFW's successful boycotts and made the plight of farm workers visible to consumers.  Arrested over fifty times for peaceful demonstrations, Dolores now engages and develops young leaders in civic engagement and policy advocacy.

The Greatest Public Service by an Individual under the age of 35 was awarded to Dr. Neilesh Patel.  Dr. Neilesh Patel, manager and founder of Healthcare professionals, a non-profit portal that connects over 30,000 volunteers and job seekers interested in health-related volunteering with over 3,050 organizations.  A Biomedical graduate of John Hopkins University, is also the recipient of the UCLA CEY Humanitarian Award.

Mark Erin received the Greatest Public Service Award by a Professional Athlete. Founder of the Washinton Kastles, World Team Tennis Franchise, Ein is Chairperson of the District of Columbia Public Schools Educational Fund that has raised over $80 million of philanthropic support in four years.   Ein is also the Founder of Venturehouse Group, a holding company that creates, invests in and builds technology and telecommunications companies. He is a graduate of The Wharton School and MBA from the Harvard Business School.
As we entered in Washington DC, we stopped in at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, one of the largest shrines in our country, to give thanks to God and our Blessed Mother Mary. 

It is our prayer that in our own small way we can continue to make a difference in our world
for the better, change lives and give hope.

(The SIA Leadership Team: Vanessa Fragiacomo, Karina Costa, Kayla Roque, Sydney Sigue, Adrienne Bagtas, Ewa Kowalczyk, Anglin Thevarajah, Jada Yarbough, Samantha Frejuste, Mrs. Michalski, Eileen Conaty, Alexander Desir, Andrea Lopez, Marina Santiago, Janelle Isaacs, Toni Davis-Wilson, Karol Pierre, Nathalie Barillas, Natasha Hicks, Mary Palma, Joyce Mendoza)


The Lord is showering blessings upon Benedictine Academy for their heart-felt work in being advocates for the rights and dignity of every human being, especially in their anti-trafficking efforts.

USA NETWORK ANNOUNCES 2013 CHARACTERS UNITE AWARD WINNERSBright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox Communications, Mediacom, Suddenlink and Time Warner Cable Recognize Ten Community Heroes Honorees to Be Acknowledged at Award Presentations Across the Country.

NEW YORK, NY – June 10, 2013 — As part of its award-winning “Characters Unite” public service campaign, to address social injustices and bridge cultural divides, USA Network, along with its distributors today announced the 2013 recipients of the Characters Unite Awards. Ten winners were selected from hundreds of nominees for their extraordinary efforts in combating hate, intolerance and discrimination worldwide, and making significant contributions to champion civil and human rights in their communities. Linda Michalski, teacher at Benedictine Academy, an all-girls catholic college-preparatory in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was recognized for her work with her student leadership team, the Benedictine Cor Defenders.  They are  a voice for the voiceless and confront evil with the power of good.
“Congratulations to this year’s Characters Unite Award winners who, in the face of adversity, have worked tirelessly to fight hate and discrimination while promoting acceptance in their communities,” said Mac Budill, President, NBCUniversal TV Networks Distribution. “Along with our distributors, we’re proud to recognize these leaders for their remarkable efforts.”

“We applaud these ten incredible role models for the tremendous contributions they have made in their communities,” said Toby Graff, senior vice president, public affairs, USA Network. “They truly embody the Characters Unite mission with their dedication to combating discrimination and promoting greater acceptance. With these grants and recognition, we are proud to help each honoree expand their important efforts.
As Staff Mentor, Linda teaches students how to take on the issue of human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery impacting young women around the world. Benedictine Academy became the first Freedom Partner School with Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives to abolish human trafficking through the power of education.  The student team has worked tirelessly to raise awareness through the media, Youth Leadership Conferences as well as before the House Senate in Trenton, New Jersey. With Linda’s help, Benedictine Academy has been awarded the National Jefferson Gold Medal for Volunteer Public Service for three consecutive years and most recently, 
 Along the journey, Linda has successfully instilled her students with life-long moral values and the belief that they have a shared responsibility to actively protect the rights and dignity of every human being."


It was a momentous occasion yesterday for Ken Morris's family, the great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass, and all of America.  The bronze statute of Frederick Douglass was unveiled at the White House in Emancipation Hall next to great American heroes such as Rosa parks and Martin Luther King, Jr..  This year is the 150th commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Frederick Douglass is known as the Father of Civil Rights.  First inspired by the Bible and the power of Almighty God, he believed that "once you have learned to read, you will be free forever."

Ken Morris, Jr. of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives is carrying on his family legacy in his fight against modern slavery, human trafficking.  Last year, Benedictine Academy received the honor of being awarded a plaque naming us their first Freedom Partner School.   Since then, we have worked tirelessly together to educate other young people about the history of slavery and the rights and dignity of every human being.  Frederick Douglass said "Education means Emancipation."

While our students, Kayla, Karol, Eileen and Marina were in Washington DC to accept on behalf of Benedictine Academy, the 2013 National Jefferson Awards Ambassador Gold Medal for public volunteer service leadership, they met with Ken Morris before the ceremony.

CBS News carried the story last evening.  We are grateful for the opportunity to leave our small footprints next to the ground-breaking mighty footprints of such awe-inspiring people in our history. It is a humbling privilege and honor that we will never forget.


To view the whole ceremony,


Jefferson Awards News writer,  Kathryn Caravan, comes to BA to interview the BCD's, Benedictine Cor Defenders (of the  Heart).   She came to hear their story.  It is the story of their journey to protect the dignity and rights of young people against the victimization of human trafficking, modern slavery.

Have you ever wondered what type of questions news writers ask?  Here is a little behind the scenes insight as to the story behind the story:

Why did you initially get involve this advocacy in our society?
Eileen shares:  I remember being at a Polaris Workshop to learn more about human trafficking.  The FBI showed a photo of a recent human trafficking bust at a hair salon.  I thought, "Oh my, I know that hair salon. I pass it when I go to visit my grandmother. " It was then that I realized that it is true that human trafficking could happen in any city, in any state, to any person, regardless of economic status or nationality. 
How did you feel about it when you found about it?  What work are you doing now as abolitionists?  What do you hope you will accomplish?  
Jada shares that we want to "bee the hope".  We try to bring the darkness of evil into the light by raising awareness about this hideous crime.  If people know the signs and dangers of human trafficking, they will not fall victim to the lies and deceits of the perpetrators. 
  • Don't talk to strangers anywhere, but especially on the internet.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and with whom.
  • Don't go out alone to isolated areas or at unconventional times.
  • Don't meet anyone that your family or friends do not know. 
  • Keep the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number in your cell phone. 1-888-3737-888.
  • If you "see something, say something".  Call the National Hotline Number. It is anonymous and they will connect with the local police.  
  • Polaris National Hotline is an excellent resource for general information and answers to questions.
Ewa recalls on how her grandmother was oppressed as a child performing slave labor in Poland.  Human Trafficking is when another human being is forced, coerced, or exploited for the purpose of slave labor, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.  There are 27 million people enslaved across the globe today.  No one chooses to be treated without respect or to not be free.  
Vanessa shares on how it is a moral crisis in our society and across the globe.  "People do not have God in their heart so that are doing the wrong things, consumed by greed and self-gratification."
It was only recently that Karol began to enjoy Hershey chocolate again after hearing that they finally agreed to change their labor practices for the gathering of cocoa beans and safeguard against child slave labor.  Benedictine Academy, along with hundreds of other concerned citizens and religious organizations, has been petitioning Hershey chocolate to change their labor practices overseas for six years!
Sydney, Joyce, Marina, Karina, and Kayla also shared their beliefs that we need to become educated because in knowledge, there is power.  We can and will make a difference in abolishing human trafficking in our country.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


On June 4, 2013, PNC Bank presented the New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Awards for Public Service at the Newark Museum.  The New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Awards was established to honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.

Sam Beard, the co-founder of presented the Jefferson Award Gold Medal to Special Honoree, Ms. Linda Michalski as Moderator/Mentor of Benedictine Academy's three time Jefferson Awards Gold Medal High School.  In 2013, Benedictine Academy was awarded the top Ambassador National Jefferson Award Gold Medal for a High School in the entire nation.  In 2012, Benedictine Academy was awarded the National Jefferson Gold Medal for #1 High School for Volunteer service Leadership in the United States of America.  In 2011, Benedictine Academy was awarded the Regional Jefferson Awards Gold Medal and Best High School in the country.  

The Mayor of Elizabeth, Hon. Christian Bollwage, had a special message for Benedictine Academy.

The Jefferson Awards is the official volunteer recognition program of the U.S. Senate and White House in Washington DC.  It is run by a Board of Selectors, leaders in every field of endeavor ranging from government, the arts, education, entertainment, sports and business.  Laura Bush, Hon. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Chris Wallace, Jack Russi, and C. Tyson are a few of the great men and women who serve on the Board of Selectors.

 The Lieutenant Governor/Secretary of State, Ms. Kim Guadagno, gave the opening remarks to this momentous event.  She was  particularly touched to be part of this evening that honored in a special way the volunteers who devoted their time, energy and resources to the Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.  "In the aftermath of one of the worst storms in our state's history, volunteers throughout New Jersey and across the nation responded immediately to the devastation and began working together as part of a long-term effort to help our state recover and rebuild..."

The Master of Ceremonies was Steve Adubato. He is an Emmy-award winning PBS broadcaster, anchor, author, and motivational speaker.   There were  (21) honorees celebrated and awarded with the NJ Governor's Jefferson Awards Gold Medal.

"These honorees represent a small fraction of the approximately 1.5 million New Jersey volunteers who provide millions of hours of service throughout the state each year."    The presenters included partners from  PSEG, State Farm, Verizon, BD, and the Star Ledger.

"Rowena Madden, who has dedicated her career to being an unwavering voice and advocate for  volunteerism and community-based initiatives throughout New Jersey, received special recognition from the National Jefferson Awards for a lifetime of service." 

Richard Vezza, publisher of the Star Ledger shares this message regarding the Jefferson Awards Gold Medal for Public Volunteer Service: "The `Great Society' envisioned by Thomas Jefferson was a nation of informed and involved citizens. The people we honor tonight have made that vision a reality."