-Health as Right ESL Class, Day 1
-Ron Lapitan, Community Outreach Coordinator
“If you had the power to change one thing about your community, what would you change?” I asked the students. This is the question student groups must answer on their first day with the Health as Right Program, which leads to the service projects they choose to create. Today it was the turn of Ms. Smiles’ ESL English class at Yorktown High School, which is incorporating the Health as Right Program into their curriculum this semester.
Students are always hesitant to answer at first, but once the first person speaks up, it becomes an outpouring. Youth have something to say; they just never get asked.
This board shows the ideas they came up with. The one that got voted for the problem they will address with their service project is racism.
“But that’s such a big problem. We can’t fix that,” commented Chinua.
“But I wanted to do something to help the poor,” said Ayla.
“There’s nothing to stop you from doing something about all of these problems, even those we don’t do as a group,” responded Ms. Smiles.
“But I’m only one person,” said Ayla.
Ms. Smiles stood in the front and got their attention. “Even if we can’t solve the whole problem, we can still solve small pieces of it. Even if we can only help one person, or 10 people, or 20 people, then that makes a difference to that one person. This isn’t just about this one problem, or about these seven problems. It’s about showing you that you have the power to make a difference. And every one of you will be involved in many things in your lifetimes where that power will carry over,” she said with conviction.
She paused, then added, “And remember that Ghandi was only one. Jesus Christ was only one. Muhammad was only one. Never doubt that each one of you has power.”
Kagumbo raised his hand. “Miss, can a person fly?” he asked half-jokingly. “You just said one person has power.” The class giggled.
Ms. Smiles looked at him and answered, “Yes, if they have the right tools.”
“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for.”
-John A. Shedd