AARON ROZON / SWITCH
Members of TAG (Teens Against Genocide) include, top row from left, Addy Omohundro, Justin Thompson, Torri Law, Carlos Maibeth-Mortimer, Kristin Chamberlain, Philip Davidson, Kim Mayfield, Rory Marsh, adviser Robin Worley and Blaise LaMadrid; and bottom row from left, Ka'ua Kaholokula, Bailey Knopf, Richelle Ridenour, Sonya James and Taylor James.
Teens want ‘uproar’ over Darfur outrage
In honor of Holocaust Memorial Day, Island School students decided to do things a little differently. Instead of spending their time mourning over the past genocide of World War II, they focused on the current genocide in Darfur. One of the goals of Island School is for its students to become global citizens and increase their awareness of events taking place around the world. And the biggest humanitarian crisis today is in Darfur.
The high school students spent one week of morning meetings watching "The Devil Came on Horseback." This is a documentary about a young American, a former Marine who became a military observer for the African Union and was transformed by the atrocities he witnessed in Darfur.
This inspired students to undertake a letter-writing campaign. Each student in the high school wrote several letters to our senators, President Bush, presidential candidates, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and celebrities who also are trying to raise awareness of the crisis in Darfur.
In "The Devil Came on Horseback," it was said that if you take the time to send a handwritten letter to your representatives, it goes straight to their desk. In response to the 200-plus letters the students sent out, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad sent personal responses to the students voicing his appreciation of their efforts and pledging to make changes.
Many students wrote to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. "Since it was an entire high school writing to him, I felt like he might take it seriously and something might actually be done," said Colleen Knopf, a sophomore.
Some students wondered if their letters would truly make a difference, so the Human Rights class contacted state Sen. Gary L. Hooser on Kauai to ask his opinion. He emphatically stated that personal letters do make an impact on politicians, and he commended the Island School students for initiating this awareness-raising campaign.
"Our mission is to make all of Kauai aware of Darfur and get them into such an uproar about it that we get our senators and representatives to do something about it," said Kim Mayfield, a senior.
The Human Rights class at Island School decided to take their action a little further. They created a group aimed at making teens aware of the genocide and getting them involved. The name of the group is TAG (Teens Against Genocide).
The more students learned about the crisis in Darfur, the more outraged they became at the lack of media attention to the genocide.
"The genocide should be on the news all the time, but instead America is choosing to ignore it. If everyone in America was properly educated about what is going on in Darfur, a lot more would get done to help them," said Sonya James, a senior and member of TAG.
TAG is making an effort to increase media awareness on Kauai. "I talked to Ron Wiley (Kauai radio announcer) about TAG and Darfur, and I will be going on air with Rory Marsh on KKCR to talk about the conflict," Kim said.
"I have helped raise awareness by creating a MySpace and Facebook to educate teens and get them involved," James said.
The students at Island School have replaced ignorance and apathy with a desire to make a change. Taylor James, a senior and member of TAG, voiced the feelings of others in her class. "I think that anybody can make a difference in helping to stop human rights abuses. Maybe you can't fly over to Darfur tomorrow, but you can join organizations and raise money to send to those in need."