HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For students at Hempstead High School, Nelson Mandela has always been a free man.
His 27 years on Robben Island happened before the teenagers at the school were even born. The students had been learning about Mandela when history unfolded in front of them.
On Friday, students took time to remember Mandela’s life.
“I think it’s a good thing we’ve all come together. Not just for his passing, but for all he’s done for us,” one student told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.
Students took out their cellphones to simulate candles as the band played “We Shall Overcome.”
“It was kind of shocking because they don’t let us take out our cellphones. But it was powerful,” Zaire Lindsay said.
The session was deeply moving for teachers who were deeply impacted by Mandela’s life and work.
“This is a good day and a sad day for all of us — black, white, this is a man who knows no color boundaries,” Betty Cross said.
The Hempstead High celebration was among many held across Long Island.
Students at Barack Obama Elementary School had recently started to study the Civil Rights Movement. The only president that those students have been alive to see is an African-American whose name is on their school.
Now, they have started to study the inspiring lessons of Mandela.
“I think he’s a great person because he makes us civil rights, so we could all make friends, new friends and people we never met before,” a student said.
A lesson that was passed on to the young and the old.
“Life is worth living. Life is worth dreaming, and life’s dreams do come true,” Cross said.
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