• My Greatest Achievement

    Being nominated for the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County’s Friedlander Upstander Award was in itself the greatest honor I have ever received. In the beginning I was told that my chances of actually winning were slim because candidates would span all of Nassau County. I was beyond thrilled that I had been chosen by the Wheatley faculty to represent our school. I knew it was a great opportunity to put my story to writing, and even if I didn’t win, I would still be able to let people read my essay and understand how I have been affected by intolerance.

    After reading my essay, my mother’s eyes filled with tears as it had to do with one of the biggest ways tolerance plays a role in my life — my family. My older brother has Autism, and throughout my whole life I have watched as people thought less of him, told him he couldn’t do something, or just treated him differently from everyone else. He is of course different, but he is just as much a person as anyone else; that is what I try relay to people. He has given me such a gift because I am forced to look at the world in another way— I have been on the other side of intolerance.

    The least I can do is spread the knowledge I have obtained from knowing someone as amazing as my brother. It’s definitely not always easy growing up with him. It makes full family vacations near impossible. Even being all in one car together can be a definite struggle, but my whole family is so proud of where he is today. He holds 3 jobs and is a functional member of society; something many people told him he couldn’t be. Because of him, I always feel the need to step in and give the underdog a fighting chance whenever I can. People shouldn’t be treated any differently or with any less respect simply because they are different.

    Winning this award was such a personal accomplishment. It truly is the best kind of award to receive because it was based on who I am as a person. The award ceremony was one of the best nights of my life— listening to so many inspirational people tell their own stories having to do with intolerance. Reading the plaque I was later given nearly brought me to tears. It listed leadership, courage, and the ability to inspire others as three of the qualities of this award. I felt so honored and met so many amazing people. It is definitely a night I will never forget.

    This fall as part of the award I will also be a part of the HMTC’s Annual Middle School Tolerance Conferences, which I know will be another incredible experience. I am beyond excited to be able to work with these students and pass along lessons I have learned. I would like to thank the HMTC and Claire Friedlander Family Foundation for giving me and opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program.

    – Caitlin Calio
    2013 Friedlander Upstander Award Recipient