Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
For a living embodiment of “above and beyond,” look no further than Westbury Middle School teacher, activist and recent North Hempstead Hometown Hero Peter Zoia.
A seventh-grade social studies teacher and Activism Club leader, Zoia received his nomination from principal David Zimbler.
“There have been four principals in the last two years at Westbury Middle School. This hasn’t deterred Peter from keeping the focus of community service and character building,” Zimbler said, who was on hand for the small recognition ceremony outside the middle school.
Zoia, who grew up in Massapequa and resides in North Bellmore with his wife, Ana Elisa and their 6-month-old boy, James, helped organize a number of fundraisers, including a “Hoops for Haiti” basketball tournament, a family bingo night, a holiday raffle and basket drive, a cell phone recycling drive, a chocolate for charity sale and a school-wide awareness campaign called, “Haiti: A Year After the Quake.”
With a high Haitian population in the district, much of the focus for the Activism Club shifted toward helping the earthquake-ravaged country. Zoia and the students organized an “Adopt a Village” campaign to help construct a new school in Haiti, with every $100 representing a brick on a poster and 85 bricks being the ultimate goal. They have raised $3,700 so far and will continue the effort again in September.
“We just try to get the kids involved. We took a vow of silence, where 100 or so kids remained silent for a whole day: no electronics, no computers, no phones. There are over a billion kids around the world silenced by poverty, so that was the message,” said Zoia, adding, “I looked at my school and as a teacher, I’m in a position of power and I should use my influence over these kids to act, to inspire and make the community a better place.”
“Peter is truly a positive role model to the students and staff at Westbury Middle School. He provides our students with an authentic experience of what it means to give back and to do right by your fellow man. He is truly an altruistic individual,” said Zimbler, who noted that in addition to their support abroad, the Activism Club also provided non-perishable food and clothing items throughout the Westbury community during the holidays.
Zoia, once he arrived at Old Dominion University in Virginia, realized he wanted to become a teacher and in the fall, Zoia will celebrate his seven-year anniversary at Westbury Middle School.
“The kids really respond, they’re great kids. Hundreds of them are willing to get involved and would love to get going but just need that leadership to point them in the right direction,” said Zoia.