Westview High School takes action
“I want my students to connect with their world, both locally and globally,” says Khandice Love, who teaches American Studies at Westview High School in Beaverton, Oregon. “I want them to understand that we can make a difference.
“In conjunction with studying units on poverty and genocide, I took my class to the REAL. LIFE. Exhibit. What a difference it made. Walking through the Mexico City garbage dump, where people live on less than $1 a day, did so much more to help students experience poverty than any lecture or any article could have done. When my students stood in the hut in the Ugandan camp where people have fled because of genocide, when they read the stories of the child soldiers abducted by the LRA, when they stood in the refugee camp where Kosovars fled because of ethnic cleansing, they felt the pain of injustice and fear. It took empathy to a whole new level.
“We came back to the classroom and discussed what we experienced. I asked the students to write reflection papers, and then I assigned them Take Action projects. I want them to realize that they can—and must—act. It’s part of the responsibility of citizenship.
“I asked each Take Action group of four to seven students to chose an issue and do two things: (1) bring awareness to the school or community about that issue and (2) raise money to support a response to that issue. I gave the students one month for their project, but I allowed only two half-hour class periods for the project. The students were not always happy with me about that, but I wanted them to understand that giving involves sacrifice, that it takes their personal time to help others.”
One Take Action group created a video about what they had learned in the REAL. LIFE. Exhibit and made a presentation to officers of the student government. The Take Action group asked the student leaders for $300. Convinced by what they had heard and seen, the student government voted to contribute $500 to Medical Teams International. Another Take Action group held car washes and added another $107 to the amount, bringing the total to $607.
The students know that amount can make a huge difference for children whose lives are affected by poverty in the Mexico garbage dump and genocide in the Ugandan camps for internally displaced persons.
They know that even though they are only students, they can make a difference. They took action and touched the lives of hundreds of children.
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I'm only one person, but I can make a difference!