-Ron Lapitan, Community Outreach Coordinator
When a Health as Right group forms, it picks a social problem in the community that it cares about and spends the semester designing a service project to address it.
One school we had the privilege to work with this year was Yorktown High School, where our group consisted of a 9th grade ESOL class. The problem they picked was racism, which they chose to address by making a video to educate their school about the problem.
Yesterday was our grand premiere. As the teacher Ms. Smith and I put out refreshments and literally rolled out a red carpet, our student Zainab, who served as our enthusiastic director throughout filming, walked in nervously and practiced her lines as the MC in front of her friend Jennifer.
“We would like to thank the principal and also the director of minority achievement for taking time to attend our premiere,” she said to the audience of two classes and other staff from the school who packed the room. “We made this film to show that racism is a great problem, and it affects many people. We hope you enjoy.” The crowd applauded supportively.
After the movie, the class split into groups to discuss reflection questions we had prepared about racism. The students had much to say, having a great awareness of prejudice in society, but also showed hope in the potential of people and culture to change. The principal and the school’s director of minority achievement were part of those lively discussion groups and were greatly inspired. They thanked Center for Health and Human Rights for working with the class, then asked if we would work with another ESOL class next semester.
It was also my last day with this class. I thanked them all for the inspiring experience, then gave them each a CHHR bracelet as a memento of our time together. The bell rang, and I shook hands with each of them on their way out.
“Why do you have to go?” asked Maydeline and Nicole half-jokingly.
“I wish I could stay,” I said with a smile.
Saying goodbye is bittersweet. An experience ends, but a seed is planted, which is the realization of a cohort of youth for their own power to turn ideas into reality. People like me come and go, but these seeds, once planted, are a treasure that nothing can destroy. Now I move on to another garden.
“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — William Butler Yeats
(Image: Zainab addressing the audience.)