Newswatch 16 Salutes Pocono Teacher for Giving Back

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EAST STROUDSBURG -- Tonight we are saluting a teacher in the Poconos who is strengthening his community by getting his students to help those in need.

Michael Healey is a Social Studies teacher at East Stroudsburg High School South.

His students say Mr. Healey pushes them to be their best and shows them how they can make a difference in their community.

"He's a mentor," said Adriana Torres, an East Stroudsburg South Senior.

"He's a fatherly figure," said Amanda Marrero, a senior.

Two years ago, Mr. Healey started an afterschool program to teach students about the importance of being good global citizens.

That class is now part of the United Nations Academic Impact Program called "Aspire".

This is the only high school group in the world to be affiliated with the UN Aspire Program.

Other schools involved are colleges or universities.

Healey pushes these students to break through cultural barriers by having them talk about their differences.

Those discussions made Shaiza Khawaja find pride in her background.

"It's embarrassing to say I was afraid to say I was Pakistani and now I'm so proud of it and a lot of it goes to Mr. Healey," said Khawaja, a senior.

Healey then takes his lessons a step further and shows his students the importance of giving back.

"We started doing small advocacy. We started collecting items for Haiti and we started bringing in speakers from the community. People who had done extra ordinary things," said Healey.

Right now, his group is collecting money for a local cancer support group.

They've collected $500 in change.

During the past year, the group was invited to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to present poems to a panel of diplomats and world leaders.

The group also met with Pulitzer Prize winning author Sheryl WuDunn at their high school.

WuDunn and the group discussed her book about turning oppression into opportunity for women throughout the world.

That discussion inspired the group to start collecting hygiene items for local women's centers and community family centers, which they've been doing for some time now.

"I think the real definition of community service is taking curriculum from a passive role and making it active. In that way you're teaching students so much more than they could learn in a history book. The curriculum is literally coming alive. They're lessons they're never going to forget," said Healey.

"I feel like the things I learned in this group, like how to be a positive influence in your community, is something I can take and institute into the military.  I can broaden my horizons and go out and change," said Marrero.

"Community service is important because our community represents who we are," said Sean McFarlane, a senior.

"You can make a difference in your own community and advocate for the under represented Pakistani community with your career, later on in your life," said Khawaja.

"In this group you learn to embrace yourself. You're like, 'Oh my Gosh, I can do this?' And you can," said Torres.

"You're mentoring young people to go out into the community to improve it. In two ways you're improving that young person and you're also investing in your community in the future," said Healey.

Newswatch 16 also asked Mr. Healey where he saw his students in five years.

His response, without hesitating, was 'doing amazing things in their community'.

That's why we would like to salute Michael Healey for showing his students the importance of embracing who they are and giving back to their community.