Christopher found his voice as a senior in high school — and he immediately put it to work on behalf of his fellow students.
Christopher founded the first LGBTQ club at the HS of Hospitality Management in midtown Manhattan. And working with speech therapist Victoria Swerski, he created a brochure, “Everyone Deserves a Voice,” with inspiring quotes and online resources for LGBTQ students. Christopher’s research led him to a wide range of LGBTQ individuals, from Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., to Laverne Cox, the first openly transgender actor to play a transgender character on broadcast TV.
“I know a lot of closeted people,” said Christopher, who will be attending the Culinary Institute of America in the fall. “I made it for them and my school.”
Christopher’s project was one of the 32 winning projects honored May 30 at the 13th annual Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration at UFT headquarters in Manhattan, where about 200 students, parents and speech and hearing service teachers gathered in Shanker Hall for the ceremony. The theme was “Communicating Better Together.”
Mindy Karten Bornemann, the former chapter leader, was honored with the Friend of the Chapter Award for her “exemplary leadership over 30 years,” said presenter and Chapter Leader Caroline Murphy, who noted that Karten Bornemann “created this event.”
Student artwork was displayed on tables and lined the walls, and it showed the variety of projects — from joke books and cartoons to posters and collages and even videos. Students from PS 333 in District 75 closed the evening’s roll call of award-winning presentations with “Hall of Fame,” based on the will.i.am music video, in which the students sing along and sign the lyrics: “Standing in the hall of fame/And the world’s gonna know your name/’Cause you burn with the brightest flame.”
“The Speech Teachers Chapter was delighted to honor the creativity of children who receive speech as a related service and their providers, plus the contributions to the field by some of our members,” Murphy said.
Sonia Shehadeh, a speech teacher at PS 8 in Kingsbridge Heights, the Bronx, helped her students express themselves through the Expanding Expression tool, a multisensory approach to understanding language. “It helps students hone in on one aspect of speech,” Shehadeh said. Her students used the tool for their project, “What Speech and Language Means to Me.”
One 10-year-old student said the project taught him to love speech. “I speak to express myself,” said the boy, who wants to be a journalist. “It’s going to boost my confidence to write and speak.”