In the tapestry of our society, one thread stands out as essential for its strength and resilience—the prioritization of the community. At the heart of this collective spirit lie our schools. Schools hold a unique position as the nexus of knowledge, growth, and social cohesion, making them the most vital component of our communities. By placing schools at the forefront, we prioritize education and protect our future. Community First – it’s that simple.
On June 3rd, we will come together at The Boston Button Factory for “Just Cause” to support Community First Project, a non-profit run by former Navy SEAL, Andrew Sullivan, that trains our local police force to serve our communities and better protect our schools from violent attacks. To help raise awareness and funds, local artist and award-winning Boston Public School teacher, Ari Hauben will show his artwork and auction off a unique piece commissioned for the event. We did a combined interview with both gentlemen to ask the decorated veteran and school teacher where they found common ground on the subject of protecting our schools.
Andrew Sullivan and Ari Hauben
1. Andrew, you have taken on the challenge of helping police officers be better prepared to protect our schools, and Ari, you are an artist and an award-winning teacher. What about schools made you both choose to serve this segment of our community?
AS: Being a parent has driven most of my decisions in life, both before and after retirement. I went into the Seal Teams because I felt I had the attributes needed to protect my family by seeking out the evil in this world and helping to eliminate it. Now, in retirement, I am still passionate about making my family, friends, and communities safer by sharing the critical knowledge base I developed throughout my military career.
Our schools deserve a protected and welcoming environment for our children, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to help make that possible.
AH: For me becoming a Boston public high school teacher, specifically one at a school designed for students who struggle with emotional and behavioral challenges, felt less like a choice and more like serendipity. As someone who wasn’t always the best student and strained to succeed within the confines of our public school system, the fact that I’m teaching in it still surprises me. That, combined with my practice as a professional artist, gives me a unique perspective of where my students are coming from and an understanding that strength comes in many different forms.
Through art, I’ve been able to access this in myself and my students, and often finding the power of even some small success can lead to bigger and better things!
2. Ari, you’ve created a piece exclusively for the event titled Warrior. What is the significance of this piece with Community First’s effort to protect our schools? Andrew, the word warrior conjures images of bravery, protection, skill, and battle. Your mission is to help our local police force become warriors for our children. Many might misjudge Community First’s mission simply because of the visuals of guns. But the fact is, guns are being brought into our schools to cause devastation. How do you balance the need for sensitivity with the obvious need to better equip the local police force for these situations?
AS: This is a great question! Thank you. I like to point out the many differences between law enforcement and military special operations when asked these types of questions. The warrior culture we foster in the military is much different than the culture I see in law enforcement. Police are protectors, first and foremost. They are our front line against the dangers that are increasingly plaguing communities, and we are fortunate to have these brave men and women place themselves at risk to keep us safe. However, increasingly we are seeing critical, life-and-death incidents occur where we need these same officers to adopt this warrior mindset to confront these evils safely and effectively. Therefore, it is essential that we train and educate our officers to understand the differences between and appropriately adapt to the “protector” and “warrior” mindsets so they can better prepare to meet today’s threats.
AH: The piece I created for our event on June 3rd represents strength, protection, and resilience, but also life and beauty, all while looking forward to the future. Of course, it gives the nod to our friends in the SEALS by using Neptune and the trident in the work too! The sad reality is that violence in schools has become commonplace, and as a teacher and a father, it crosses my mind daily and feels very hard to do anything about. This is why the Boston Button Factory team and I are so excited to be working with Andrew and Community First, who are proactively working towards giving the people who protect us the tools they need to succeed under the worst circumstances. I think the messaging in the art encompasses many of these ideas as well as references looking forward to the future, something all of our students should be able to do.
3. You both come from two completely different backgrounds, yet you found common ground to come together. Ari, why did this cause of training our police to protect our schools call to you? And, Andrew, what are the commonalities between the discipline of visual arts and the discipline of going to battle?
AS: Another fantastic question! I like to think that planning a mission is an art form in itself. We have highly trained individuals who are the best in their field, working together to create a plan that unifies the talents of all involved into one significant effort. The mission validates the skill and preparation of the men and women who successfully complete it. Much like art, in my mind, which is a combination of mediums used by a talented individual or group that combine to make something aesthetically pleasing and often remarkable.
Additionally, there is extreme attention to detail in combat that I assume the art world shares. We painstakingly review and critique every step of our combat processes to ensure results as close to perfection as possible. It is the only way to deliver the finest fighting force onto the battlefield consistently.
AH: I think when you look a little closer, Andrew and I don’t come from such totally different places. His answer to this question did an excellent job showing some of this common ground. (Read his full answer if you haven’t, and thanks for making answering this easier for me, Sully!) And as I mentioned above, as both a teacher and a father, safety in schools is something I think about every day on many levels. Unfortunately, at my school, metal detectors, classroom doors that automatically lock, and the sight of police officers are all the norm. So, as I continue to look a little closer, I think that the common ground between myself, my teaching, and what we value at the Boston Button Factory was underfoot from the start and that, ultimately, we share the same goals.
4. Andrew, we have a question for you because we understand that as a decorated Navy SEAL, you helped to secure tickets to the Army Navy-Game in December. The proceeds from auctioning these tickets will benefit Community First and Team Impact. Tell us more about the event and why you were compelled to get involved.
In the military world, the Army/Navy game is the single most significant point of contention among service members; GO NAVY!! It’s also the most remarkable display of inter-service comradery, esprit-de-corps, and pride for our country among those who protect it. When I heard the game was coming to Foxboro on December 9th, I felt obliged to bring my passion for this rivalry to those who help to support our non-profit. We have partnered with TeamImpact.org to draft two disabled children into the Army and Navy football programs to create a long-term, life-changing experience for everyone involved. We will follow and support these children’s journies throughout the season, culminating at the Army/Navy game.
Additionally, with support from private donors and the Omni Hotel Seaport, we will provide a weekend of activities uniting the military, first responders, and Massachusett’s philanthropic communities.
To partake in this weekend, we have a spectacular auction package consisting of two VIP (G-P Atrium) tickets, food, drinks, and parking (if needed). The package bundle includes the following:
- Two nights at the Omni Hotel Seaport.
- An invite to our pregame celebration at Lifted (Omni) on Friday evening.
- Transportation to and from Foxboro on game day.
What better way to be a part of history than to spend the game with Navy Seals, Army Special Operations, Admirals, Generals, and Silver Star and Medal of Honor recipients? It will be a once and a lifetime experience for those who attend. Anyone interested in the auction can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. All money raised will support Community First Project’s efforts to provide no-cost training to Massachusetts police officers.
Support Community First Project HERE.
Purchase tickets for the June 3rd event HERE.
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