PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Lynn English High peer mediator Ginny Keenan was awarded the Anti-Defamation League’s Community Service Award on Thursday.
BY THOR JOURGENSEN
SALEM — Maria Arias choked back tears as she described why peer mediator Ginny Keenan deserved to be honored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Thursday.
“Before I knew you, I didn’t have a place where I thought I belong,” the English High School senior said. “You helped me find myself,”
As a 350-person Kernwood Country Club audience applauded Thursday, the ADL awarded Keenan and Gloucester police chief and former Saugus police officer Leonard Campanello the organization’s Community Service Award.
An ADL statement said the awards salute Keenan’s and Campanello’s “leadership in combating hate and bigotry in their communities.”
Founded in 1913, the ADL’s mission is to fight anti-Semitism and hate through programs and services.
Keenan, of Swampscott, has been a peer mediation coordinator for Solutions for Living, a nonprofit organization serving English for the past decade. She got her start in mediation at a Lynn organization resolving neighborhood disputes. With 1,700 students from 40 nations attending English, Lynn educators brought in Solutions for Living to work on teaching students, in School Superintendent Catherine Latham’s words, “acceptance and responsibility.”
Keenan’s peer mediation work at English branched off into formation of Friends of Rachel, a student club named for one of the Columbine mass shooting victims, and Living in Two Worlds. After moving to Lynn from the Dominican Republic and finding herself “not in a good place,” Arias joined Two Worlds and met Keenan.
“Ginny is the first person I really opened up to,” Arias said.
Keenan said peer mediation helps students sort through seemingly unsolvable differences to settle conflicts. Sitting in the crowd filling Kernwood’s function room, Latham said Keenan is available around the clock to mediate student differences.
“We’re so fortunate to have her at English High School,” Latham said.
The ADL saluted Campanello for working with police colleagues to launch a program that has steered 430 opiate addicts to treatment over the last 11 months. The program allows addicts to surrender drugs without arrest and pairs them with volunteers who guide them to recovery programs.
In introducing Campanello, who was recently celebrated at a White House gathering, ADL regional board member Bonnie Shelkrot read a statement from U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton praising Campanello “for helping us open our minds and rethink previously-held opinions.”
Campanello said the addict outreach program is trying to reduce a world of hate, a world of rejection and a world of judgment.
“You have a certain amount of time to do some good,” he said. “That is the responsibility of all of us.”
Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim delivered Thursday’s keynote speech and urged Gov. Charlie Baker to sign transgender anti-discrimination legislation.
Marblehead High School students Averi Kaplowitch and Olivia Schauer were applauded for identifying online anti-Semitism posted by students and working with the support of town educators to launch an ADL “world of difference” education program.
Thor Jourgensen can be reached at [email protected].