About 300 people gathered at NYU’s Kimmel Center on Monday for the Third Annual SJ Expo. Young people ages 11-19 were incredibly enthusiastic about exhibiting their social justice projects. The twelve judges found it nearly impossible to decide on the top three projects. They felt that all the young people showed tremendous passion, interest and knowledge about their topics. They were impressed with the work of the young people as well as the schools and organizations that make it possible for them to use their voices to make change. In the end, the judges decided on the following awards:
1st Place: Robesonunite by Paul Robeson High School
Description: With the support of the Coalition for Public Education Brooklyn Chapter, Robeson students have been developing a social networking campaign, Robesonuinite.com, to fight back against the proposed phase out of their school. Students will be present to discuss the process and their involvement with the Coalition and the Urban Youth Collective.
Judges were particularly impressed that the student-leaders at Robeson have taken so much responsibility for the potential closing of their school. It is an issue that cuts to the core of the students’ experiences and they have taken on a leadership role in advocating for the continuation of their school, particularly for younger students. They have done extensive research as well as intense community-building within their own school. They have built a website to gather petition signatures and demonstrate weekly to spread awareness to their community and communicate their message to the Department of Education.
2nd place: Stifling Stereotypes by Brooklyn International High School
Description: After performing at a UN Human Rights Conference, students were invited to a New Jersey school for a day of sharing and participating in activities to break down stereotypes. Shawnee High School is a mostly White high school whereas Brooklyn International is made up of students from around the world. By spending time with each other, students learned that ideas they had about each group are not always correct and that they had many more similarities than differences.
According to the judges, this project demonstrates bridging young people from different cultures in a way that is a model for other schools and organizations. This is a project that started out as a performance at the UN, but was then developed by the students to include a visit to a school in New Jersey, a button campaign, and ongoing activities.
3rd Place: School Food/Food Justice by The Point
Description: Although the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx houses the largest food distribution center in the North East we’re considered a “Food Desert”. Hunts Point is an Environmental Justice (EJ) community, which means we carry a lot of the city’s burdens. We hold several waste transfer stations, house four jails, a fertilizer company, have 15,000 trucks pass through our community daily and although we are a water front community we barely have access to the water. All of these components add to our high rates of obesity, poverty, diabetes, and asthma. Our campaign stems from the lack of healthy options in our neighborhood and extends to how institutions such as our public city schools are able to influence and teach people how they can eat healthier and in turn live healthier lives.
The judges pointed out that the student representing this group is incredibly knowledgeable about food justice and the health and economic impacts of food injustice on the population of the South Bronx. The project demonstrates unique collaboration in that the young leaders at the Point learned about garden-building from young people in Scarsdale, built their garden, and then held cooking classes for their community because they knew having the food is useless without knowing how to prepare and enjoy it. They are now working with a middle school to teach younger students about healthy eating and gardening. This is a multi-faceted and action-oriented project.
People’s Choice Awards
Most Informed, Most Organized, Most Collaborative and Impact: Choosing to Participate by LREI
Description: As a part of the LREI eighth grade curriculum (The Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement) and connected to our year’s theme, “Choosing to Participate”, the entire class chooses specific civil and human rights issues that they find important and join with others in the grade that have similar interests. In teams, students research their topics in depth, arrange interviews with experts in the field, complete volunteer visits with NYC-based organizations and build websites dedicated to their topic to share their activism. On April 27, 2011, the eighth graders led a day-long Social Justice Teach-In, where each group taught lessons about their issues to the rest of the middle school.
Most Enthusiastic: Poverty, Capitalism and Social Justice by Hyde Leadership Charter School
Description: Students independently researched a social justice topic that was linked to our unit theme of Poverty and Capitalism, wrote papers on their findings, and got the word out to the community in an event at The Point, a local organization for youth empowerment. This project pushed students to take a crucial step toward achieving social justice: “Research the underlying reasons for oppression”. They hope to continue a dialogue around the pressing issues that contribute to poverty in our time.
Most Creative: Diabetes in Low-Income Communities by Bushwick School for Social Justice
Description: We educated our class about the medical and social causes of diabetes and how to make healthier lifestyle choices. We examined the reasons why black and Latino neighborhoods have the highest rate of diabetes in NYC, including lack of access to affordable healthy foods, preventative medical care and safe places to exercise. We hosted a sugar-free ice cream sale and created a home exercise routine to encourage making healthy choices in the face of social injustice.