Option 4: Share an example of a community working together to accomplish a greater goal. What happened and how was it made possible? What kind of roles did members play along the way?
Sophia Florence, Grade 6, Greene Street Friends School
My art is the pride flag, but I made it my own. I created this for my art submission because it represents when a big community came together and fought for what is right, for same-sex marriage! This effort took a long time, but they did not just give up; they kept fighting. Finally others felt the same way, and they all came together and won! By coming together to fight for what was right, other people opened up to what was right, and the community just got bigger with lots of communities all over fighting for the same reason. It made a great impact on lots of people all over the world.
I also decided on this issue because it is important to me and my family. We have good friends who could not get married; this win didn’t just have an impact on them but also on my family.
Sophie Adler, Grade 9, Westtown School
One of the times I have been deeply involved with a community working together was when I was in fifth grade at West Chester Friends School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. At the time, I was part of a girls’ running club that met after school, and we decided that we wanted to do a service project. We chose to do our service for a nonprofit organization called Soles4Souls. This organization donates used shoes that are still in good condition to people in Third World countries. Many of these people do not have proper footwear. Our group watched a short video about the people that receive the donated shoes, and I remember wanting to help them immediately. There were only about eight girls in our running group, so we all split up with most girls working in pairs. Not surprisingly, I worked with my best friend, Ellie.
Each pair was given a huge cardboard box to collect the donated shoes. We had to decide where to set up our box. Some girls set up their box at the grocery store, others at the running store. At the time, Ellie and I were both part of West Chester Meeting, so we decided to put our box there. I remember Ellie and I standing up at the end of meeting for worship to make an announcement about our project. It seemed like everyone agreed that this was a good cause. We had about three weeks to collect shoes. We constantly reminded people to bring in shoes. As the weeks went by, Ellie and I saw people bringing anywhere from one pair of shoes to three bags full. At the end of the three weeks, we were surprised to see that our box was full. We were also proud of our accomplishment.
I’ll never forget the Friday afternoon when we all brought in our boxes. First we dumped the shoes in one giant pile. Next we had to find pairs of shoes, tie them together with rubber bands, and put them in a different pile. This process took about an hour and a half. We had tons of fun while working. We took advantage of the many shoe options, trying on all of the heels we could find and attempting to walk across the gym. Finally all the shoes became a mountain, and we tallied all of the pairs. We collected 1,007 pairs of shoes, and the story was featured in the Daily Local News. This was a very memorable experience.
If the Taxes Aren’t Lowered, the City Is Going to Stop!
Carolina De Avila Castilho, Grade 11, Westtown School
In July 2013, with the increase of taxes in São Paulo, Brazil, people from all over the city went out in the streets to fight for a greater goal. The protest was primarily organized in opposition to a significant price increase for bus tickets, which would cause a huge impact, especially for the lower classes. Later on, however, more people from all different classes started to join in the protest to represent their own causes. They fought against corruption scandals; they fought against the bad quality of public hospitals and the lack of investment in education; they fought against the large amount of money that was used for construction for the 2014 World Cup and not for supporting the starving children in the favelas (Brazilian slums). Soon enough, people from every state of Brazil were in the streets, crying out for a better place to live and fighting for their rights.
I was born and raised in Brazil, living there for 16 years before moving to Berwyn, Pennsylvania, to live with my aunt and uncle to attend Westtown School for a year.
In this drawing, I recreated a famous scene from the protest. On the board that the people are holding there is a warning: “If the taxes aren’t lowered, the city is going to stop!” This is an example of how a community can work together to achieve a greater goal. After that month of protests, corrupt politicians were arrested, taxes were lowered, and changes were made in our hospitals and schools. Now our leaders recognize that the people have a voice, and that it is louder than ever before.
Time to Step Up
Franklin Grear, Grade 9, Westtown School
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Helsinki, Finland, to become part of a new community. The trip was run by a nonprofit organization called Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV), which works toward world peace. I participated in a Step Up camp called Say What!?. Little did I know going into it that this community would forever change my life.
There were nine countries represented at the camp: Japan sent three girls; Finland sent two boys and a girl; Italy, Hungary, China, the United States, Lebanon, Austria, and Poland each sent two boys and two girls. These teenagers were considered the participants of the camp. Each country also sent one adult leader. There were also four staff members from Finland and one from Mexico. Those are all of the members that made up the community.
Say What!? Step Up 2015, along with all other CISV Step Up camps, had a few goals, the main ones being to bring teenagers together to build global friendships, to take a little step toward world peace, and to help us all develop some leadership skills. From the day I got to the camp, I could tell that the next three weeks would be the best of my life. Each day I became closer with every person in the camp. You may be asking, “How did that happen?” One of the main reasons we were able to build such a strong community in three short weeks is that we recognized we were all different from one another. Those differences were not only recognized but cherished. The time I spent at this camp was the first time I went three weeks without hearing anything negative about somebody’s race, religion, beliefs, political views, culture, country, or skin color. We all spoke English—some people didn’t know as much as others, but we didn’t let that stop us. The language barrier rarely formed even the slightest of problems. At meals nobody rushed to sit next to specific people because we all loved everybody there.
I think the thing that could make every community stronger is cherishing each other’s differences like we did. When I was younger, I would always hear about people being accused of crimes due to their race, religion, or cultural heritage. Growing up this way, I never thought I’d see a place where race, culture, and religion existed only through positive perspectives. The absence of intolerance at Say What!? Step Up is one of the things that made it such a strong community. Another thing was simply that we spent time together. Participants spent time with staff, leaders with participants, staff with leaders. It all resulted in a formula that made, in my eyes, the ideal community. I never thought that I would see a perfectly peaceful place in which the only pain was saying goodbye. Will you be able to step up and make your community a better place?
- Option 1: What are the important elements of building a loving, safe, and supportive community?
- Option 2: What are some ways to support and care for each member of your community?
- Option 3: What happens when there are differences or conflicts within a community?
- Option 4: Share an example of a community working together to accomplish a greater goal.
- Thanks: Thank you to all of the participants of the third annual Student Voices Project!