Social justice and activism are core components of Manhattan Country School’s curriculum. Each year, the school’s oldest students—the seventh and eighth graders—are charged with taking on a student-led activism project. This year, they chose to raise awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis and Islamophobia.
Before they could persuade others, the students had to educate themselves about Syria and Muslims. They discussed the history of events that have led to the current crisis, watched films, visited museums, and met with refugees and humanitarian aid workers.
Armed with their newly acquired knowledge, the young activists were ready to take action. They called the New York Governor’s office to encourage the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state and quickly learned that their stance put them in the minority. “It became clear to me how large of a crowd we were fighting against, and how important our activism would be,” says one eighth grader.
Next, the students traveled to Washington, D.C., to join the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National Day of Action, which included meeting with Congress. To cover their travel expenses, the students filmed a short video expressing why the United States should let in more refugees and launched an online crowd-funding campaign that raised more than $15,000.
The students are now sharing the knowledge they’ve gained from their activism work with their school community. “I want to inform people about how refugees are going to be beneficial additions to the country,” says a seventh grader. “I think educating other young people will be helpful.”