Lead WNET Teen Conference
African-American student and his friends were harassing an Asian-American
student in the cafeteria, making fun of the student’s limited
English proficiency. One African-American student called the Asian-American
student by a nasty racial epithet, the Asian-American student
responded in kind, and physical violence ensued. The school newspaper
responded to the incident with a series of articles in which students
celebrated their unique cultural heritages. The articles were
accompanied by a collage, which, after the paper had gone to print,
was found to contain the same kinds of hateful phrases that sparked
the first conflict.
You are a student. You are a teacher. You are the principal. What
do you do?
don’t know! I’m tired,” superintendent-of-the-day Terrie Williams
cried out in exasperation.
Ms. Williams was one of eight students and professional adults
on the Ethics Forum Panel, moderated by Professor Charles Ogletree
of Harvard Law, who debated hypothetical situations that touched
upon very real issues. The panel discussion was one of several
opportunities that high-school students had to discuss issues
of diversity and bias at Thirteen/WNET’s Teen Leadership Day.
feel that we need to break down stereotypes that many of us have
about each other,” said Joliz Cedeno, a senior at Beacon HS. “We
need to relate to each other and respect each other for who we
The students did not hesitate to confront complex and controversial
topics, from affirmative action to the use of Osama Bin Laden’s
raise these issues so you can talk about them,” Professor Ogletree
told the audience, “ but you go back to school on Monday – one
day is not enough.”
of the goal is to get them really jazzed up so that they go back
to the schools and really infect the student body,” explained
Macenje “Che Che” Mazoka, Director of Youth Outreach at Channel
With the help of mini-grants from Channel 13, some schools have
gone on to hold similar conferences within their own districts.
Lynne Feldman, a teacher at Northern Highlands regional HS in
NJ, attended last year’s conference with a group of students who
decided to apply for one of the mini-grants to sponsor a peer-mentoring
program for 8th grade students coming into their high-school.
But then the world changed.
found out that we had won the mini-grant on September 11th,” says
The brother of one of her students, Johanna, was one of the heroes
of Flight 193. Johanna and the other students started thinking
that they wanted to use the grant money to do something more along
the lines of “character education,” and after the President created
the Freedom Corps, the students decided to create their own Teen
Freedom Corps. Their chapter will be dedicated to Johanna’s brother.#
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