A blog written by our members about their experiences at community events.
Trong, Lamisa, and Ms. Ledwon were inspired at the second annual Stories of Refugee Resettlement student panel at Conrad High School. The night was a magical one of breaking down stereotypes, forging human connections, and broadening hearts and minds.
Twa, who is from Thailand, reminded us that refugees are global contributors and not people who only ask for aid and give nothing back to others. She said. "I want to show the world that we are more than what you have heard... I want to become an agent of change... [to show others] that we give back more than we earn." We admire her sense of duty to the world.
Zahra, who is from Iraq, showed us the power of perseverance. We are incredibly proud of her for completing high school and graduating, despite being held back a grade level in middle school. We can't wait to see the incredible things she will accomplish at TWU. She also helped us learn more about resettlement processes in the DFW area by asking the community panelists about gentrification. The experts explained that people tend to resettle near the offices of the resettlement agencies that help them and also near other refugees and immigrants. Furthermore, they want to attend planning meetings to be involved.
Yasmin, who is from Sudan, impressed us with her understanding of the troubles that people around the world go through. She helped us realize that perceptions of places, including the US, are unlike the realities of living there. Her aspirations to go into the medical field remind us that careers of service are so worth it. We were inspired by her English skills, especially since it has only been a year since she moved here from Egypt.
Zainab, who is from Iran, broke down many misconceptions. She showed us the beauty at the heart of her country which is vastly different from the negative images usually shown on news media platforms. We admire the sacrifices that her family made to protect their religion and their beliefs. We thank her for showing us that there is so much more to a group of people than a single story. During the Q&A portion of event, Zainab stressed the importance of ESL programs in her success as a student.
Overall, these four resilient and brave young women made us realize that refugees are human beings first and foremost. They are more than any label we place on them. We encourage all of you to get involved with resettlement and welcoming organizations around the Metroplex.
To learn more about how to help, please follow the links below:
DFW Refugee Volunteer Guide from the UNA-USA DFW Chapter: http://www.dfwrefugeeguide.org/
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: http://www.usccr.gov/
Dallas Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs:
International Rescue Committee in Dallas: https://www.rescue.org/united-states/dallas-tx
Refugee Services of Texas in Dallas: https://www.rstx.org/dallas/
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas: http://www.hrionline.org/
#EducationIsNotACrime Campaign: http://www.notacrime.me/
Contact your representatives to demand more funding for English language learner classrooms, better resources for newcomer programs around the community, and increased job opportunities for resettled families.
Contact Information for Representatives
The Newman Smith High School Human Rights Forum is grateful to have attended the 5th annual In Vino Educatis fundraiser, Destination Global Literacy, hosted by the DFW chapter of Room to Read at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.
We are honored to have played even a small role in Room to Read's mission to give every child in developing countries the opportunity to learn and aspire, despite their gender, family background, or socioeconomic status.
We would like to thank Amy Miller for giving us the opportunity to attend this, and Jean Lamberty and Debbie Dennis of RTR DFW for organizing this.
Learn more about our fundraising projects for Room to Read here:
Just Brewed & Read-A-Thon
Watch the video below to hear John Wood, the Founder of Room to Read, speak about firsthand experiences with children whose lives are being transformed because of this organization. John's vision and passion are what started Room to Read, and for that, we are inspired by him.
More pictures taken by Jerry McClure of Action Shots DFW can be found by following this link: http://www.actionphotosdfw.com/Events/052417-Room-To-Read/
On Thursday February 23rd, Emily Clark, Kathy Pham, Melodie Vuong, and Lamisa Mustafa represented Newman Smith at Academic WorldQuest competition!
We studied since October to master the 2016 topics of Current Events, Women in Technology, China, Great Decisions, Peace and Conflict in Today's World, the European Union, Global Megacities, Turkey, Countering Violent Extremism, and Combating Infectious Diseases!
In the end, we ranked 26th place out of 78 teams! We thank Mr. Seff for being a supportive sponsor! We wrote a few reflections about the event:
Why we joined JWAC/WorldQuest:
"WorldQuest started as just a group of us curious about the news. Ms. Hardy suggested we form a team and participate in this competition. In only the past few years, it has now grown into a team not only focused on competing but also being more globally aware."
"I joined JWAC when my friends asked me to join it." -Emily Clark
"Initially I joined the Human Rights Forum, Smith's chapter of the Junior World Affairs Council, on a curious whim, but upon attending more and more meetings, it became a priority of mine to make a difference in the world by simply becoming informed and standing for change!" -Kathy Pham
"This was my first year participating in WorldQuest competition- my friends have been doing it for a couple of years and I really wanted to get involved. I think that this is a great outlet for us to cultivate our competitive spirits while simultaneously learning about important global events." -Lamisa Mustafa
Why we care about international issues and becoming globally conscious:
"It is now more important than ever to know what is happening not just in our community but all around the world. As we go off to college and onwards, we will be contributing to society. I want to form my opinions as an observer before I make change as a global citizen." -Melodie Vuong
"I care about international issues and becoming globally conscious because the US is constantly affected by international affairs and issues and we should care about the welfare of all people, not just Americans, so it is essential that everyone pay attention to and care about what is happening worldwide." -Emily Clark
"With the Academic WorldQuest competition, I am enabled to study about topics such as the European Union and Global Megacities as I tap into my inner competitiveness and I am enabled to form my own views on events that happen in the world today that affect my future tomorrow." -Kathy Pham
"I care about social affairs because it's what I'm dedicating my life to. I want to inspire those around me to care about the world and their fellow human beings. I think that the first step towards being a human rights activist is being informed, so that you have knowledge to share with others. It's so easy to be complacent in our fortunate lives- there are so many people living in unforgiving circumstances. It's our duty to help them." -Lamisa Mustafa
Memorable moments from the competition:
"Over the years, the memories from WorldQuest are some I will never forget. My favorite memory from this year is continuing our tradition of celebrating at Starbucks afterwards. It is a nice way to destress and refresh!" -Melodie Vuong
"One moment that I'm sure we will all remember for quite a while was when the table in front of us began to list off all of the cities they could think of when the question of how many megacities existed was posed." -Emily Clark
"Some of my favorite memories from this past WorldQuest season would have to be just being able to spend time with some of my favorite seniors since I'm the only junior in the team! We met up over the weekends to just sit down and hash out details from our study guide, but it was also a nice excuse to hang out with my best friends! -Kathy Pham
"My favorite memory this year was consulting with our sponsor, Mr. Seff after each round and laughing over how bizarre and obscure some of the questions were- he was answering them along with us, just on the sidelines! We appreciated his support so much." -Lamisa Mustafa
Thanks to the World Affairs Council, JWAC students experienced an exclusive tour of the Gendercide Awareness Project's art exhibit and spoke with the founder, Beverly Hill. Ms. Behnisch, Chisara, and Lamisa saw the eye-opening and thought-provoking exhibit and were inspired by the work of the women and touched by the ramifications of what the exhibit represented.
Gendercide is the loss of female life worldwide due to sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, gross neglect of young girls, entirely preventable maternal death, and the inability of older women to access food and shelter.
The Gendercide Awareness Project works to end gendercide in three ways:
AWARENESS – through newspapers, radio, online media, film screenings, lectures, and presentations. To date they have reached 1.3 million people.
ACTION – This involves two initiatives.
ART – exhibit using 12,600 pairs of handmade baby booties, most of them made by at-risk women in developing countries. Each pair represents 10,000 missing women. Exhibit opened in Dallas from February 10-15, 2017. The art featured in the exhibit was created by local artists from around DFW.
Learn more by visiting the official website of the Gendercide Awareness Project.
Explore the pictures we took above as well as official pictures from the GAP! Watch the video below to walk through the exhibit yourself.
Our officers represented HRF at this year's African American Read-In that took place at Perry Middle School on Monday, February 6th!
It was a heartwarming night, full of gratitude for those who fought for civil rights and leaders who continued their legacies.
Watch a video created by our talented PR Director, Steve, below to see some of our readings, as well as other inspirational performances from students and teachers around the Carrollton community!
This past Wednesday, we were invited to speak at the World Affairs Council's Meridian Young Professionals holiday event! This year, the social was specifically a fundraiser for the Global Young Leaders Program, which the NSHS Human Rights Forum is a part of through the Junior World Affairs Council.
You can learn more about the Global Young Leaders Program here: http://education.dfwworld.org/
Kathy, Morgen, Steve, and Lamisa were tasked with presenting a few meaningful words about the value of JWAC. We shared our experiences to show the Young Professionals how much we appreciate their support.
Read our reflections about JWAC and the event here:
"As a student who attends a Title 1 public school, the value of the opportunities that are so readily offered to me doesn't go over my head. I know how unique and once-in-a-lifetime these are. If not for JWAC, my classmates and I would not have met influential and powerful world leaders who have ultimately inspired us and made us reflect on the lives we wish to lead. Because of events like International Career Day, we want to have meaningful careers and help improve the lives of all people regardless of our job titles. I am proud to be involved in an organization that engages students with the world around them and makes them more aware of social affairs. It's so important for us to always be open-minded, especially as bigotry and xenophobia persist. JWAC is a constant reminder to me that good people exist. Amy Miller, the WAC Director of Education, was nice enough to invite my parents to come up with us! They were so inspired by our presentations that they donated to JWAC!" -Lamisa Mustafa
"The Meridian Fundraiser event was a great opportunity for my fellow activists and I to voice our gratitude towards JWAC. The special event also allowed us to befriend other activists in our community which help to make us stronger. I'm super grateful that we were invited to this special event, not to mention, the food was delicious!" -Steve Barboza
"The Meridian fundraiser truly highlighted the endless opportunities offered to students like myself from the World Affairs Council. Without the unwavering support from the faces I saw, hands I shook, and stories I was told, the Human Rights Forum at Newman Smith wouldn't have been able to be where it is today. I am beyond grateful to have presented to young professionals why the Junior World Affairs Council matters to me." -Kathy Pham
Morgen Amalbert composed this poem about what being involved in JWAC means to her:
I know the back of my hand.
I know my neighborhood street.
I'm familiar with myself.
Me, myself, and I.
My mind is empty
I listen to April Bowman,
a first generation college graduate,
She tells us her life journey,
her walls and what she did
to overcome them.
I now know the back of my neighbor's hand.
I now know the street that my neighbor grew up on.
I even know neighborhood dog that would chase them to school every morning.
His name was Scrapper
You see, I'm now familiar with both of our lives.
My mind is half-full
I shake hands with Peter Szijjarto, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
I now know and walk the steps of a stranger on the other side of the planet.
I can feel pain as they feel pain
I can take off my glasses and see the world through their eyes
I'm aware of the street that they grew up on.
And I was emotionally with them and their families when they had to flee it.
My mind is full.
I attend a Junior World Affair's Council International Career Day
My mind is overflowing
I'm now a citizen of the world, aware of my history, present, and future, seeping through the cracks of my glass are ounces, gallons of culture and human emotion
And thanks to the Junior World Affair's Council, I will never stop refilling it"
A very nice photographer at the event recorded Morgen's performance of her poem! Watch it below and be inspired!
In this season of giving, please consider donating to continue making these amazing opportunities available to us! Your generous donation could help us bring an esteemed guest speaker to our school, attend a book signing of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and so much more. The link is here: https://www.dfwworld.org/give/champagnesocial
Below you can find pictures of us with Andres Perez, a fellow presenter from Lassiter Early College High School, and Ms. Ledwon who came to support us (we love you Ledwon!!!)
By: Human Rights Forum members
Our first ever during-school-day field trip, on Tuesday, October 25th, went off without a hitch!
We had an enlightening and emotional experience at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust isn't a part of our history that we are proud of. In fact, the tours around the museum and the presentation by the second-generation survivor brought tears to our eyes. However, the event is necessary to learn about and to learn from. Our Forum's motto is to inspire a shared sense of humanity among our members, school, and community; our trip to the museum did just that. We've been inspired to be upstanders who advocate for justice and equality.
After that, we went to Southern Methodist University to meet with the Embrey Human Rights Program.
Our meeting with SMU EHR about agency and advocacy was very uplifting for us. As a group of students aspiring to pursue meaningful careers, we were inspired us to advocate for human rights, no matter our career choice. We came away from the presentation with a better understanding of how we can impact the lives of others for the better. We also greatly appreciate the lunch they provided us (for those of you wondering, it was yummy Jimmy John's). We can promise you that more of our students are looking into attending Southern Methodist University as their motto is "world changers shaped here" and that's exactly what we want to be. We have heard nothing but praise from our former student President, Tannah Oppliger, about the program. We are so proud of the new image that it is creating for SMU and for our Dallas community.
Look at the amazing pictures above from our day, taken by the amazing Steve Barboza.
We've also attached the Dallas Holocaust Museum's video about upstanders and the Embrey Human Rights Program's introduction video at the bottom of this post.
By: Morgen Amalbert, Steve Barboza, Sarah Freeman, Lamisa Mustafa, and Kathy Pham
My Voice Has Power to Speak My Truth and Share My Light
The Human Rights Forum 2016-2017 school year officers, Ms. Hardy, Ms. Behnisch, Ms. Pairish, and alumni Ben Peillard attended the first ever Human Rights Dallas Summit, hosted by SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program, on Saturday, July 9th, 2016.
The first ever Human Rights Dallas Summit was a gathering of human rights leaders and activists from all over the metroplex to make our city a safer and fairer place for all residents to call home.
Here are our reflections of the historical event:
“In the wake of a tragedy, many people from the Dallas community came together to discuss arguably, the most important issues in our world today. People from all walks of life, students, teachers, residents, protesters, police officers, etc, came to put their ideas of how to spread awareness of human rights into effective action. I felt inspired the entire day. Just the day before, Friday, I was gloomy and sad because of the recent events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and now, Dallas. I needed some hope and light in me and this conference did just that. It reminded me and many others in the room heartbroken with grief, that there is hope! There is work to be done! The people I talked to and met were so passionate about human rights and really wanted to put Dallas on the map as a “human rights city”. I left the conference with a renewed sense of hope and a new drive for human rights. In the words of Dr. Rick Halperin, SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program Director, I wish to someday live in a world where ‘human rights is a part of everyday dialogue and conversation.’” -Lamisa Mustafa
“I really enjoyed the conference since it was filled with activists discussing issues and topics that are quite sensitive in our modern houses and schools. Yesterday's conference allowed me to intake and understand the perspectives of both the youth and adults in our community of Dallas. Also, I gained a greater understanding of how the adults in our community are planning on changing and increasing awareness of human rights in our town. For instance, implementing programs in schools and receiving funding from local businesses to raise awareness are ideas that I never thought of until the conference! Thus, I really enjoyed and appreciated the Human Rights Dallas Summit due to the ideas and changes that came upon not only me but also other activists in our community as well."
“This conference could not have been more eye-opening. Tragedy has continuously struck the American society for some time now, leaving the nation feeling lost and helpless. I’m personally tired of feeling powerless. This seminar not only provided me with emotional healing but also the appropriate tools to take action and mend the weakened branches of society. By illustrating the effectiveness of human rights agencies, programs, festivals, and collective efforts, Human Rights Dallas painted a picture for me. In that picture was a future filled with intrapersonal and interpersonal peace on a canvas where society coexisted in a harmonic state. Yes, the fight for this picture is a difficult one. However, Human Rights Dallas showed me that such a marvelous piece of art is not impossible to achieve.”
“I was so privileged to have shared this historic, momentous day with an extraordinary group of genuine, vulnerable, and diverse human rights advocates and my fellow Human Rights Forum officers in the midst of all the recent acts of hate. Being surrounded with those who were fighting for a difference reminded me that change is inevitable and that it was up to me and my peers to educate others and shine a light on the topic of humans rights so that change is inevitable. It reminded me that there is hope: that there are people out there who care. My voice has power to speak my truth and share my light: Giọng nói của tôi có quyền nói sự thật của tôi và chia sẻ ánh sáng của tôi. I hope for a future in which the community comes together regardless of social determinants to speak truth and shed light in honor for those who have suffered through tragedy.” -Kathy Pham
“Everyday, as new reports of bloodshed and utter desolation flood our phones, it is hard to remember that we are not alone in the crusade for human rights. The conference this weekend served as a powerful reminder that human rights issues not only matter to other people, but that other people are actually doing something about them. The conference afforded the opportunity to mingle with everyday activists, professors, and powerful agents for change. I felt free to discuss my thoughts with all I met and found a support group among complete strangers. I feel inspired to go out and make human rights a part of “normative dialogue,” in the words of Dr. Halperin. I encourage everyone to make these serious topics a vital part of conversation and plans for the future, so that as a city, a country, and a global community, we can make a real difference.” -Sarah Freeman
For more information about Human Rights Dallas itself, and for more pictures from the event, go here: Human Rights Dallas Summit
By: Lamisa Mustafa
Two days ago, Tuesday June 14th, I went to a World Affairs Council speaker series event titled "Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran" to hear Shirin Ebadi speak.
When I got to the venue, I was a little intimidated by the distinguished attendees in their high heels and tailored suits. Luckily, I saw some familiar faces! I got to shake hands with Tarek Radjef, an Algerian who came and spoke to NSHS’s French club! Ms. Ledwon and Ms. Syphus were also there and we sat next to each other.
I was a little bit surprised at first when Ms. Ebadi did not speak in English and had a translator. It took a bit of time to adjust to the back-and-forth between her and the translator but later on, it was perfectly fine. Although, it was funny when Ms. Ebadi made a joke and the audience members who understood Farsi laughed right away, while the non-Farsi speakers had to wait to laugh and clap along until her joke was translated.
Ms. Ebadi is an astonishing person whose credentials are out of this world and whose experiences are unspeakable. I am going to start off by saying how lucky I am to have heard her speak. She is the first Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize and only the fifth Muslim. She is the first Iranian woman to have served as a chief justice, a job that was taken away from her after the Iranian Revolution. She wrote her book, "Until We Are Free" for two reasons: “to help young women gain self-confidence” by reading about her experiences and “to tell the truth about the nature and substance of the Iranian government.”
In terms of the current situation in Iran, she explained that government officials treat activist leaders horribly by imprisoning them with no evidence of guilt. There are strong feminist, workers’, and student movements in Iran.
She spoke about how there are a lot of human rights violations in her motherland. At the age of 63, she lost everything including her money, property, accounts, law office, and NGO. Because she wasn’t home at the time, the government arrested her sister and her husband. Through resilience and perseverance, she realized that she was lucky to be alive and continued to fight for human rights. In 2003, she was honored as a Nobel Peace Laureate for her efforts for democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women and children. She works with other women recipients of the award in the organization, Nobel Women’s Initiative, in the fight towards gender equality.
Her speech ended quickly because she wanted to break down the stereotype that attorneys “talk a lot”. Afterwards, there were audience questions.
The last few audience questions started to get a bit heated because they were about the touchy subjects of Palestine and Israel conflicts, as well as fundamentalism in Islam, but Ms. Ebadi handled them with class, staying true to her values. When a person asked “why does Iran hate Israel?” Ms. Ebadi replied that it was a strategy of the Islamic republic to be the leader of the Islamic world by opposing Israel. She pointed out the incongruity in the government’s actions when it was silent when Russia took Crimea and when Chechen Muslims were killed. Her opinion about the migration crisis of refugees going from Yemen, Libya, and Syria to Europe is that the displaced people are only security threats when they are isolated: she believes they can be economically useful if they are integrated into European society. She was frustrated when someone asked “Is Islam compatible with democracy and human rights?” because she gets that question often and never gets asked whether or not Christianity or Judaism are compatible with democratic values. Her response was that government should be secular and separate from religion and also that Islam should be interpreted in a way that is compatible with human rights. On the topic of nuclear weapons, she is against nuclear power plants because she believes solar power would be more practical.
I was lucky enough to get her signature and a picture with her after the event. I also spoke with Ms. Hardy and Sergiy Shtukarin about educational opportunities for our Forum. (Stay tuned!)
Of course, if you want to learn more about this amazing woman, read her newest memoir, "Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran" or just Google her (yes, she IS that well known).
I encourage all of you to go to future World Affairs Council speaker series events to hear from world leaders about their experiences and current events.
Human Rights Forum members