On December 3, six Clemente students spent the day at the Illinois Holocaust Museum engaging in a Student Leadership forum. These students were nominated for their leadership attributes and desire to make positive changes in their community. Once at the event, school groups were split apart so that individual could sit with peers from other schools across Chicago and nearby suburbs, meeting new contacts and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
The day began with icebreakers and purpose-setting activities, followed by a discussion centered on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students watched a brief video on the history of human rights from the 6th century BC to modern day, then created hashtags and slogans to help them promote the declaration on social media. From there, students toured the museum exhibits in order to more fully absorb the cost of ignoring human rights. The main message captured during their debrief can be summed up in a quote often attributed to Edward Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Many students were also interested to learn that Holocaust survivors were a vocal presence in the civil rights movement, because they knew the cost of not speaking out when human rights are violated.
After lunch, students heard from Holocaust survivor Aaron Elster, who described his harrowing experience as a 9-year old boy, becoming one of only 29 survivors from a village of 5,000. When asked how he managed to keep going while hiding in an attic for two years, he asserted that attitude is key – that you can give in to your fear and die, or you can believe that tomorrow will be better. Speaker and activist Hudson Taylor followed him, sharing the story of how he became inspired to be a vocal ally and speak out again homophobic athletic culture when competing as a heterosexual All-American wrestler. He used the story of his organization, Athlete Ally, to provide tips for students on how they might generate cultural change and vocalize important issues. The day wrapped up with school groups reconvening for a brief planning session. Our wildcats are excited to implement what they learned and be voices for change! #IHMSLD #IHMhumanrights