Social Justice Conference

This past week we didn’t have any codes (classes) and we instead had an Atlantic College Diploma period. This diploma is in addition to the IB diploma that we are going for in our codes. This part of the diploma focused on social justice and we participated in a three-day Social Justice Conference. We were able to talk with people from all over the world about different issues that important to us and learn about other problems that we might not have been aware of before.

The first day we talked with a woman who works at both UWC-USA and UWC Costa Rica. She talked to us about her experiences with UWC’s and how it can have such a large impact on your life in the future. She was a great speaker and very engaging. I enjoyed it very much! Another part of the day was devoted to our second years leading activities for us. We talked about where our names come from and made a Yo soy de… poem. It was so inspirational to hear about the history behind everyone’s names and hear about where they come from in their poems. Some people had very deep stories attached to both and it drew all of us closer together. Lastly, an American reporter came to talk to us about cyber safety. We mentioned the recent news that was leaked by Snowden and talked about the consequences of his actions and the reaction the US had. Hearing the opinions of people from all over the world about the news that he leaked was very interesting and showed the importance of the surveillance.

The second day of the social justice conference was run by a man named Miles. He led us through a series of discussions about 52 different issues that we chose ourselves. We weren’t able to attend all the discussions, but nevertheless there were plenty of choices of topics. Some of the topics were same sex marriage, effects of rumors, cholera in Haiti, effectiveness of EU, and many others. I attended the sessions on cholera in Haiti, gun control in the US, and the way that the American dream has caused Americans to be blind to the fact that their country is struggling. I met many people who had very different opinions than me on these topics and it was so great to hear the opinions of people not from the US talk about issues going on back home. Not many opinions were changed, but everyone had the chance to voice how they feel and it was done in a very civilized and polite way. I was so impressed with the way that my co-years handled the situation when people felt differently than themselves.

Miles also told us a great story about starfish that stuck with me after the conference ended. One night there was a terrible storm and thousands of starfish were thrown from the ocean and left dying on the beach. A person walking on the beach saw a man picking up starfish and carefully putting them back in the water one by one. She walked up to him and asked, “Why are you doing that? There are too many starfish on the beach for you to save all of them, there must be thousands here!” He replied, “But I am still making a difference,” and continued picking up starfish and placing them back in the ocean. This story serves as a metaphor for what we are doing with social justice. There are so many issues in the world and it’s impossible for one person to solve them all. But we can still make a difference in the one area that we are working in.

The last day was devoted to individual presentations by each house. My house, Whitaker, did a presentation on the wealth gap in the US, inspired by the documentary Park Avenue. The documentary talks about a street in New York, Park Avenue, which has the highest concentration of billionaires on one side in 740 Park Ave and five miles away on the other side of a bridge in the South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the US. This wealth gap is so noticeable because these two groups of people are living just a 10-15 minute car ride away from each other and the difference in their wealth is so large. We also talked about how this issue extends around the world and there are examples in almost every country. There were some amazing musical performances by people in our house and many creative poems written by people. Overall it went pretty well!

Other houses focused on different issues, like child beggars in Bangladesh, women’s education, whistleblowers, self-immolation in Tibet, and a few others. They were all amazing, so creative and so informative on issues that I hadn’t really thought too much about before. One particularly amazing part of the self-immolation presentation was a video made by two friends, Floor and Koso. I HIGLY recommend that you watch it, the video is so informative and beautifully done.

Overall, it was a wonderful break from codes and I really enjoyed all of it! Next week is back to reality and back to a normal schedule, which will also be nice. I will try to post again next week!

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