Isabella Gonzalez, Staff Writer

On January 18, 2019, North Arlington High School held an assembly hosted by Breaking the Cycle, an organization that promotes forgiveness through the stories of their influential speakers. Mr. Hashim Garrett, and a Ms. Randi Kelder were two of the speakers who came to NAHS to talk about their paths to forgiveness after suffering great hardships. This assembly had a deep meaning because the struggles that the speakers went through in their lives could have happened to anyone. They both had stories that were tremendously inspiring since they overcame these great obstacles and found forgiveness for themselves and others after suffering great losses. Ms. Kelder lost her 24 year old brother, Ryan, to a severe addiction to opioid related drugs. They both grew up in a very stable, two parent family, but Randi and her brother began to experiment with alcohol and marijuana in their teenage years- leading Ryan to try more dangerous narcotics.

During college, Ryan’s addiction led him to using prescription drugs and unfortunately to his death from a heroin overdose in 2015. Their family was not aware of what was going on until it was too late, and since then, Randi realized that she needed to forgive herself and Ryan in order to move on with her life. She volunteers and speaks passionately to help prevent others from suffering the same pain she and her family went through.

Hashim Garrett suffered from the physical pain of being victimized by members of an ex-gang he had activity in during his youth. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, raised by a single mom. He went from being a smart, influential young man into an angry, gun involved gang member after getting mixed in with the wrong people. When he was only 15, a gang-related shooting left him nearly dead and paralyzed from the waist down. This occurred when he tried leaving the gang. After the shooting, he was filled with rage and wanted revenge; however, during his recovery, he realized that the only way he could become free from all the suffering was by forgiving himself and letting go of the anger towards his perpetrators.

What both Randi and Hashim realized was that regardless what they went through, they needed to forgive and move on because holding in all their anger and pain was doing nothing but pushing them further into darkness.

Recently, our guidance department began a new approach for improving students’ self- esteem and those of others. NAHS students can write a note to anyone they offended and place it inside an apology box. According to one of our guidance counselors, Mrs. Fuller, “The apology box is a way for students to right their wrongs.” Students can choose to sign the note or stay anonymous. This can be a great opportunity to resolve conflicts and issues.

The message behind this assembly was simply forgiveness. We all go through things, sometimes things we never expect to go through and others that we bring on ourselves but that doesn’t always make it our faults. We are all brought onto this Earth to live to our fullest by whatever means that may be. Always remember that pain is only temporary. We have control of our lives so keep it that way.