I faced history one day and found myself. Beginning in my 9th grade year of high school, I was a “Facing History and Ourselves” student in Cleveland, Ohio. My first experience with this organization was with a Holocaust survivor named Max Adelman. I can still hear his voice ringing in my ear as I remember him stating that, when he was in the work camps he use to wonder “does the world care,” arriving on the negative side of this question. I also realized that at one time, I didn’t care. In middle school I was known as the class bully, taking my title so far that once I nearly broke a kid’s arm.
I faced history one day and and became an activist. Listening to Max Adelman made me look within myself, and challenged me to make sure I was caring for everyone, even those outside of my universe of obligation. When the class lesson was on identity, it allowed me to put my life into perspective, understand who I was as an individual, and illustrated that I can have an impact on the society around me. When the class lesson was about making choices, it challenged me to study the history of the world and my personal past, so that in high school I was no longer the class bully, but the student that spoke against violence in and outside of school. When my facing history class started the session on choosing to participate, I became committed to activism. In high school, I went on to fight for youth rights and became the co-founder of a non-profit called Ohio Youth Voices.
Now in Chicago, I assist with facilitating the Facing History student leadership team. Last spring we created a student symposium, where high school student lead groups discussed with their peers the theme of the year, “Building Community.” On my campus, I also co-founded a performing arts mentoring group (PAECE) that goes into high schools and teaches civic education. Recently, the state of Illinois approved this organization on my campus to be used as a deterrent for troubled teens. Instead of sending them to jail, they can come to our mentoring program.
It’s a good feeling to be able to know I can take one of the strongest impacts that took place in my life, and pass it on to other students. That I can be an avenue for them to understand their identity and take an active role in participating in a world that thirst for young generation of people to have the moral and intellectual basis to run this country tomorrow.
We challenge the students to expand their obligations and to care for the many hurting people in the world. Facing History calls students to do something about the many dying in third world countries everyday. It calls you to take action when you see something wrong with the environment around you. As a 9th grade student it called for me to give up my attitude of not caring and adopt one of a grater calling, an attitude that will inevitably change the world for good in one-way or another.
I faced history one day and found myself, now those students are doing the same.