A Safe Place Hosts Guest Speaker For NHS

By Joan Harris, Associate Editor of Veritas

” On February 6th, Nantucket High School hosted an assembly that featured a presentation by the island’s premier social services organization, A Safe Place. They co-hosted April Hernandez Castillo, an actress whose impressive filmography includes playing Eva Benitez in the movie “Freedom Writers” and various other television shows and films. Additionally, Hernandez Castillo, beyond her career as an actress, has used her voice to advocate for victims of partner violence.

As a victim herself of partner abuse, Hernandez Castillo’s story involves the triumph over adversity and emphasizes how individuals, in choosing not to give up, exercise their powerful right to reclaim their lives.

When she first stepped on the NHS auditorium stage, her energetic nature immediately engaged students and awarded her their attention. Her presentation focused on the prevalence of abuse in teenage relationships and its ability to be inconspicuous in everyday life. At the core of her presentation, Hernandez Castillo reinforced that leaving a harmful relationship and choosing freedom is one of the most rewarding pursuits in life.

As she addressed the audience of high school students, Hernandez Castillo’s goal to spread awareness about teen partner violence was especially important. Additionally, given that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the topic was all the more relevant. At just 16, the age of many audience members during the assembly, Hernandez Castillo met her
abuser. She chronicled years of mental and physical abuse that followed, which resulted in Hernandez Castillo being isolated from her family, struggling with her grades, and losing her natural social personality. Her testimony left a resounding impact on NHS students.

“These conversations are difficult but necessary and they have to begin somewhere if we want to create the change that is so greatly needed,” said A Safe Place’s Director of Development, Rachel Devine.

Hernandez Castillo, who began her speaking career as a stand-up comedian, had a clear passion for both the subject she was talking about and the audience before her on February 6th. Her ability to captivate the audience’s attention could likely be attributed to this background, as it accounts for her natural speaking ability and confidence on stage.

She has held engagements with various audiences across the country, some larger than others, including a TEDx Talk. Still, it was evident that her commitment to truly connecting with the individuals in the crowd transcends the size.

“I really liked how much energy she had while talking,” said senior Anya Freedman.

Overall, Hernandez Castillo’s visit was received well by students, who ranged from freshmen to seniors. As someone with an impressive acting career and myriad accomplishments, Hernandez Castillo undoubtedly has a voice for change. However, a sentiment she shared with the audience was that, regardless of status or age, everyone has the potential to use their voice for good.

“April is very passionate about the power of connection and educating others in how each and every person has the ability to create change,” said Devine.

On the night of February 6th, following the presentation with the high schoolers, Hernandez Castillo held a free parent/teacher workshop. Both parents and students had the opportunity to hear her speak, and the Nantucket community truly felt her generosity.

In addition to the efforts on behalf of A Safe Place and their devotion to community outreach, the Nantucket Golf Club was also key in making the April Hernandez Castillo visit possible. Assemblies like the one these organizations hosted on February 6th are important elements of student enrichment at Nantucket High. Hernandez Castillo’s presentation was an informative, engaging experience for students, and her visit was greatly appreciated by the community.”

Thank you to Nantucket Golf Club Foundation for helping to make this event possible for Nantucket’s youth.

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