Staff members at PS 153 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, have always participated in the UFT’s “Pink Day,” wearing pink on the second Wednesday in October along with fellow union members across the city to raise awareness about breast cancer. But the annual tradition took on new meaning this year as they honored one of their own: paraprofessional Sheila Ledgin, who had just concluded eight rounds of chemotherapy for Stage 1 breast cancer.
“There was this lovely outpouring of support from the whole school,” said Ledgin, who has been at PS 153 for 25 years. “They rang the bell for me to signify the end of my chemo, and they gave me a standing ovation and flowers and a beautiful card. Everyone was so happy for me.”
At schools across the city on Oct. 12, educators united in pink to celebrate the survivors among them, emphasize the importance of detection and treatment and remember loved ones and colleagues they have lost.
At Queens Technical HS in Long Island City, Queens, staff members wore pink in memory of teacher Kristin Lupoli-Roberts, who died of breast cancer in June at just 40 years old. At PS 45 on Staten Island, a group of educators gathered on the front steps of the school in pink shirts emblazoned with the words “Mrs. Budde’s Buds.” A UFT chapter leader and prekindergarten teacher for more than 25 years, Denise Budde died of breast cancer in 2019.
Breast cancer will touch 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. For survivors like Ledgin, seeing fellow educators united in pink is a hopeful reminder of strength and support.
“I had two lumpectomies, chemo and radiation, and it was hard to lose my hair,” Ledgin said. “But at my job, they’d say, ‘You just look beautiful.’ ”