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Suffolk college students fight bullying with art

Angela Cernuto, 25, of Mount Sinai, submitted a

Angela Cernuto, 25, of Mount Sinai, submitted a black-and-white photo she took of her 20-year-old cousin who endured years of being bullied to a contest at Suffolk County Community College's Ammerman campus in Selden. She was one of four students who won tablets for the artwork.(April 18, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

It started as a class assignment, but turned into a stand against cyberbullying.

Angela Cernuto submitted a black-and-white photo — capturing the mark left behind on her 20-year-old cousin’s face after enduring years of bullying — for a local contest.

“I wanted to show how beautiful she is and that anyone can be bullied,” said Cernuto, 25, of Mount Sinai. “It started with them harassing her online and then beating her up on the sidewalk. We need to do something for the ones who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Cernuto was one of four Suffolk County Community College students awarded for their artwork on bullying and cyberbullying on Thursday at the Ammerman campus in Selden.

To encourage a dialogue among students, Stand Up SCCC, a committee of students and faculty formed last spring, invited students to submit artwork expressing how bullying or cyberbullying has touched their lives, and how to take a stand against it.

Students submitted drawings, paintings, poems, photos, video, graphic art and songs.

After receiving 44 submissions, the committee of nearly 20 selected four winners: Cernuto, Cory Gardner of Centereach, Xiomara Moran and Jacqueline Fortunato.

The students were awarded a Samsung Galaxy 2 Tablet and a certificate of recognition. All submissions will be displayed at SCCC campuses in Selden, Brentwood and Riverhead.

Maggie Marcincuk, committee chair for Stand Up SCCC, said the contest was meant to encourage students to expose their peers to the realities of bullying and cyberbullying.

“We want this to be an annual contest because the more we talk about it, the more we can combat it,” she said. “People think bullying stops after high school, but that’s not the case.”

Although art students Dan Clyne, 25, of Smithtown, and Deirdre Keen, 21, of Selden, didn’t win the contest, their artwork nevertheless is a testament to how they have both personally suffered from cyberbullying, even to this day at the college level.

The pair submitted a collage of hurtful tweets they and other received with a picture of themselves in the center. Posts included hashtags #Suffolktrash and #OnlyatSCCC.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, it hurt,” said Keen, 21. “We wanted to show people that this was happening on campus. Bullying has always been a problem and we’ve been the bullied. We want more protection for the victims, so we take a stand.”

Visual arts major Gardner won the tablet after he submitted his mixed-media painting titled “Bully Distorts All.” Magazine clippings of peoples’ faces make up a larger abstract face of a person crying who had been bullied.

Gardner, a bullying victim, used his artistic ability to express his pain and recent triumph.

“I wanted people to know how being bullied pushed me off track from feeling good enough for years,” said Gardner, 28, of Centereach. “At one point, I was afraid to go to school, but I toughened up and rose above it. But others aren’t so lucky. Something needs to be done.”

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