July 17, 2017

Teachers, students focus on human rights throughout summer

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
human rightrs
Caption: FILE PHOTO: Students at last year's human rights symposium in the Capital Region. Workshops are again taking place across the state this summer.

High school students and teachers have wrapped up the 2017 Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies in West Seneca after a week of learning how to be “Standing for a Better World.” Their week was power packed with speakers who bore the titles of Syrian artist; Somalian refugee; Afghani humanitarian and school builder; Holocaust survivor; worldwide expert on women’s rights; and author — to name a few — for this 10th anniversary of the institute.

Coming up next is the Capital Region Summer Institute for Human Rights, which will take place at NYSUT headquarters in Latham, Monday through Wednesday, August 14 – 16. The theme is “Equality. Justice. Dignity for All.”

“Our goal is to get a summer institute in every major city in New York, hoping to spread them around the country,” said Andrew Beiter, founder of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies of Buffalo and a teacher and member of the Springville Teachers Association. Co-founder of the Educator Institute for Human Rights, Beiter said the power of education is to expose injustice and provide tools for repair.

His goals for the institute are to help students develop leadership skills and to explore careers in public service.

“Our work is a joy and it’s so rewarding to have NYSUT in our corner,” said Beiter, who is a member of NYSUT’s Civil and Human Rights Committee and helped write the NYSUT/Speak Truth to Power curriculum offered through the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Telling it like it is to students in West Seneca was Shabana Basij- Rasikh, who runs a boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. As a girl, she dressed like a boy in order to walk through town to a secret school with 100 other girls, since education for girls was illegal under the Taliban. She went on to become a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont and is now a human rights leader.

Other speakers who shared stories with students included Allidah Black, a women’s rights activist; Tanya Lee Strong, Vermont author of “Girl Rising, Changing the World One Girl at a Time,” a follow-up to the Girl Rising movie; Herman Stone, Holocaust survivor; David Crane, international war crimes prosecutor who was prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a war crimes tribunal; Melody LeBeau, “I Am Syria” co-founder; TJ Rogers, LGBQT rights activist; and Syrian artist Nada Odeh.

Here’s more information about the Albany-area institute at NYSUT: