Riverhead student honored for human rights work

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Jesse Hopkins receives his award from the Suffolk County HUman Rights Commission Thursday night.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Jesse Hopkins receives his award from the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission Thursday night.

A Riverhead High School senior was honored for his human rights efforts in Suffolk County Thursday night in Holtsville.

Jesse Hopkins won the Human Rights Award for Making a Difference in Education from the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, a government organization that works to eliminate bias and discrimination in the county.

He was one of nine people and organizations honored at the commission’s 50th anniversary awards dinner, and the only student.

Jesse, who will attend Stony Brook University on a full scholarship in the fall, was praised for his work as a member of the executive board of the high school’s Council for Unity, as well as other organizations and events that promote equal rights.

Jesse has volunteered as a peer mediator for the past four years, helping fellow students work through their problems.

“He’s been involved in many community service projects, specifically educating youth within Suffolk County and promoting the concept, unity, self-esteem and empowerment,” said social worker and Stony Brook professor Lynda Perdomo-Ayala at the ceremony.

Jesse thanked Council for Unity founder Theresa Drozd for founding the anti-gang group that helped him so much in school.

He first became involved in Council for Unity in his freshman year, after his older brother recommended the club, Jesse said in an interview.

“The high school is really diverse, in terms of whites, black and Hispanic,” Jesse said. “I made a lot of friends of different ethnicities.”

Jesse’s mother, Christine, is chairman of the Council for Unity’s Adult Family Partnership, an organization that allows parents to get involved with advocacy work.

“I am so proud of him, I can’t even tell you,” she said at the awards dinner. “He’s so wonderful.”

Jesse said he plans to continue his efforts with diversity organizations in college this fall.

[email protected]

Check back on next week for a story on the other local honoree, Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate.