-Ron Lapitan, Community Outreach Coordinator
This week I observed the ESL English class of Ms. Smiles, the Yorktown High School teacher collaborating with CHHR to integrate the Health as Right Program into her curriculum this semester. If the school’s Office of Minority Achievement finds that the program has meaningfully empowered the students, it will be expanded to other ESL classes in the school next semester.
“Mr. Ron, is this your last week?” asked Gobinder from the desk next to me before class started, a student I have formed a friendship with.
“I’ll be here the whole semester,” I said with a smile. “I work for a program that will be doing service with your class. I’ll get to tell you about it next week.” We high-fived.
The class meets 5 days a week. The students will do the Health as Right Program on 2 of those days. On Mondays, they will work on planning and carrying out service projects which they will design to solve problems they want to change in the community. On Wednesdays, they will do our human rights curriculum, which strengthens their capacity to express their ideas about the kind of world they want to create.
I presented Ms. Smiles with the version of the curriculum tailored to this group after the week of observation. Parts of it are translated into Spanish, Mongolian, Turkish, Amharic, and Punjabi; the native languages of the group.
“Is this Turkish? Ayla will love this!” said Ms. Smiles of one of our students.
“We work with a lot of refugee groups who have found that an effective way to empower refugees is to strengthen their sense of cultural identity,” I described. “I want the students to be able to look at parts of the curriculum and say, ‘That belongs to me.”
Many cultures converge in our city. I imagine a world where youth of diverse backgrounds can find unity in a culture of meaningful conversations and service. A cheers to the experiment of turning dreams to reality.
“Where, after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world.”