Consolidated School District of New Britain
Consolidated School District of New Britain

Breaking the Cycle

Last week, the NBHS Satellite Careers Academy, Brookside School, and HALS Academy held a joint assembly. There, they listened to several guest speakers in a raw, emotional, and inspiring assembly.

Breaking the Cycle presents award-winning assemblies that feature personal stories of overcoming conflict through forgiveness. Their assemblies fulfill DASA and SAVE requirements and come at no cost to schools. The speakers offer solutions to the following issues that face our youth today:

  • Counter school violence
  • End bullying and racism
  • Promote self-respect and respect for others
  • Address alcohol and drug addiction

  • In the gym at the Roosevelt Campus, the theme of the day was forgiveness.

    Ann Marie D'Aliso and her husband, Pat, a high school football coach and health teacher, lost their son, Patrick, to suicide at 16 years of age. Nobody feels the death of a child more than a mother, and the guilt and pain were overwhelming for Ann Marie - how did she miss seeing that her son was suffering?

    After Pat's death, she realized that she had to forgive her husband, her son, and most of all, herself. Now she serves on the board of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, coordinates a survivor support group, and speaks in schools on recovery through forgiveness. By sharing her story, Ann Marie hopes that other lives might be saved.

    "Don't forget - never ever judge a book by its cover," she said. "You never know what someone else is going through. Before you send that nasty tweet or ugly comment, know that what you say could be the last straw that sets a depressed someone over the edge."

    She told students that if they are spiraling out of control and they don't know why, and if they can't cope with it or sleep anymore, they need to tell someone.

    Her husband, Pat D'Aliso, also shared stories of their son. As a football coach, he won more games than any head coach in Section 9 history (194-49), and led Monroe-Woodbury to eleven titles.

    D'Aliso's team made it to the Class AA state championship game every year from 2005-08, winning in 2005. But when he lost his sixteen-year-old son to suicide, Pat's world was shattered.

    After struggling through immense pain and guilt, he realized that unless he chose to forgive himself he would lose his wife and daughters too — his family needed him. Through the help of close friends, he continued coaching and making a difference in the lives of his players and students.

    He encouraged students to talk about their pain instead of internalizing it. He shared a story of a girl who his son had befriended. The girl had planned to kill herself later that day, but because of the kindness his son showed to her in school, she changed her mind. She would later share this story in a written letter to Pat.

    "You have the power to be a hero every day," he said.

    Hashim Garrett grew up in Brooklyn, NY and was raised by a single mom who was in an abusive relationship. As a result, he changed from a smart, articulate kid into an angry, gun-toting gang member. When he was 15 years old, a gang-related shooting left him nearly dead, and paralyzed from the waist down.

    Following the shooting, Hashim was consumed with hatred and immediately began planning for revenge. During his recovery, however, he realized that only way that he could become free and move on in life was through forgiving his perpetrator.

    Garrett said two words have stuck with him since getting shot - thankfulness and forgiveness

    "If someone calls you a name, forgive them. If you have an absentee father, forgive him. If you have a mom addicted to drugs, forgive her. I'm asking you to forgive them. If you don't, it's going to ruin your life. If you don't learn how to forgive other people, it's going to hurt you and make you live a life you don't want to live."

    Charles Williams grew up on Long Island with his mother who was an alcoholic and consumed by the fleeting relief she found in her addiction. Charles hated his mother for this, and felt that she did not love him or care about him as a son. On the surface, however, he had a successful life; he became a housing cop in the Bronx, married, and had three daughters. Later, he served as Chief of Police in Cornwall on Hudson. Inside him, however, the bitterness and hatred towards his mother was destroying him.

    Attending a Breaking the Cycle event in 2002 as a dignitary, he realized that he had to forgive his mother. When he did he said it felt like "a backpack falling off." Now, as a speaker for Breaking the Cycle, Williams is an advocate for forgiveness, both on a personal and a professional level.

    "When I was a kid, I was told I would never be anything. They were wrong. And if someone says that about you, they are wrong," he said.

    Williams talked about how hate can change who you are and the way you lived. He said it did it to him, and he regrets that he let it take him over. He also had a pointed message for the students in the crowd, ending the assembly by saying, "It's never the wrong time to do the right thing."

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