Ramapo Central School District: Talina brings acceptance, awareness message to schools

Sloatsburg Elementary School students rocked out to “It’s OK to Be Different,” a multimedia presentation by Suffern High School freshman and recording artist Talina Toscano and her father, Louis Toscano. Thanks to the support from the REACH Foundation, Toscano will be performing at all five Ramapo Central elementary schools and Suffern Middle School this year.

“Lou reached out to me after a presentation they did at Montebello Elementary School last June,” said REACH Foundation President Rosy McCann. “I spoke with Dr. Adams about coordinating a larger effort across the schools, and he thought it was a great idea—so here we are!”

Through “It’s OK to Be Different,” the Toscanos are working to raise autism awareness and promote an anti-bullying message to kids at a young age. Although Talina has autism, her focus is on music. She has performed nationwide and on the ABC broadcast of New Years Eve 2011 in Times Square. Last month, she was a featured honoree at the McCarton Foundation’s 2012 Genius of Autism event.

“Talina is trying to make a difference for all the children in the world with her songs,” said her father.

“Autism is a social difficulty,” Talina explained. “I just like inspiring people.”

And inspire she did. After her first song, a student shouted out, “I also have autism!”

“Wow, that’s cool!” Talina replied. The student beamed.

After singing her original, anti-bullying single, “Just Be Nice,” Talina answered questions and signed autographs.

“Have you ever been bullied before?” asked a fourth-grade student.

“No, I’ve been lucky,” Talina admitted. “But I’m aware for other people who have been.”

“Has your autism gotten better?” asked a third-grader.

“Yes! When I was five, I couldn’t sit still and didn’t like it when people touched my head. These aren’t really problems now,” Talina answered.

Sloatsburg Principal Eric Baird listened as students posed their questions.

“Talina’s singing ability is really impressive. She is a remarkable student and a very positive role model who conveys the message that you can overcome obstacles and become successful,” he noted. “We are very grateful to the REACH Foundation, Talina and her father for making this fantastic presentation to our students.”

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