Area students get involved in good causes
By Emily McFarlan firstname.lastname@example.org April 21, 2012 10:30PM
Fifth-grader Joseline Farias finishes schoolwork Thursday at Lakewood Elementary School in Carpentersville. Farias spearheaded a campaign at her school on the Kony 2012 campaign where students are making posters, announcements and showing the video. Kony 2012 is a film promoting the charity's "Stop Kony" movement to make indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony globally known in order to have him arrested. April 19, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
KONY 2012: KONY2012.com
Invisible Children: invisiblechildren.com
Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation: bearnecessities.org
The Green Team: greenlancers.webs.com
Updated: May 24, 2012 8:12AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Joseline Farias of Carpentersville watched the video online, like more than 104 million people around the world.
Unlike many of the people who took action this week on “KONY 2012” — the most viral video ever made, according to Visible Measures — Joseline didn’t share the video on Twitter or Facebook.
Joseline is only 11 years old — too young to have a profile on either social network. She had watched the video posted online last month by nonprofit Invisible Children, calling for viewers to make Joseph Kony famous, to raise support for the arrest of the Ugandan rebel who kidnaps children into his Lords Resistance Army, with her mom.
Her mom, she said, “got heartbroken.”
“She said if we were in that situation we would want to be heard. That’s what it’s called — Invisible Children. Nobody hears them, and this has been going on for years,” Joseline said.
The fifth-grader also was heartbroken. So she asked her teacher at Lakewood School, Terie Stephenson, if she could show the 30-minute, documentary-style video to her class during their writing time. They ended up watching the whole thing, then asking if they could show the rest of the school.
And while more than 3 million people pledged online to “cover the night” Friday with posters produced by Invisible Children in cities around the world, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Lakewood School in Carpentersvile covered their building with their own handmade posters.
One blue construction paper poster taped to a locker last week in the school hallway read, “Kony 2012. One thing we can all agree on!”
Except it’s not.
The video immediately was criticized online for oversimplifying the issue, for making Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell as famous as it did Kony; the organization, for how it spent its money. The pushback reached a crescendo when Russell was arrested and hospitalized last month after a public meltdown.
And Trish Molley, a science teacher at Larsen Middle School in Elgin, said teachers need to be “careful” when dealing with emotional, passion-fueled topics in the classroom.
“When you teach I think it’s important that you teach things factually,” Molley said. “You don’t want your emotions to guide your teaching. I want my students’ emotions to come out, but I don’t want mine to be persuasive. That’s inappropriate.”
Still, just this past week, students in both Elgin School District U46 and Carpentersville-area Community Unit School District 300 were building awareness and raising money for a number of causes at school.
Environmental clubs at both Larsen and Eastview Elementary School in Algonquin learned more about recycling in their areas and were recognized for their recycling efforts. Eastview also wrapped up its annual fundraising efforts for the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation with its Kids Run for the Bear Saturday and continued Autism Awareness Month activities.
Streamwood High School planned a blood drive Wednesday, and Dundee-Crown High School, an activism fair featuring about 55 different groups Friday, inspired by the WBEZ Global Activism Expo next weekend in Chicago.
“It’s great. I get a sense of pride for what we’re trying to teach them, other than academics,” Eastview Principal Jim Zursin said.
At Eastview, that activism isn’t a responsibility the elementary school sought out, or a culture it set out to create, Zursin said. But it’s jumped on opportunities as they’ve come up.
Its Earth Club and Autism Awareness Month activities grew out of conversations with parents, and Bear Necessities was started by the mother of Barret “Bear” Krupa, who lost his battle with cancer at age 8, while a student at Eastview in 1993. By Friday, the school had raised about $4,500 for the organization.
Eastview showed its students a video by Bear Necessities to its students at the kickoff earlier this month for Run for the Bear. That video “doesn’t talk about how bad it is to have cancer. It talks about how good it is for people to help you,” Zursin said.
But each of the six fifth-grade girls coloring bears they had purchased for a dollar to benefit Bear Necessities at the end of their lunch period Friday said a family member has had cancer: A grandpa, a Nana, a 9-year-old cousin.
“I think they really should find a cure for this stuff. I think all kids should have a fair chance at life and not die when they’re young,” said Cailey Cimera, 11, of Algonquin.
The Green Team has produced an educational video every year. Last year, it even built a website since not everybody listens to the information team members give on the morning announcements, according to 14-year-old Hadley Copeland of Elgin.
The seventh- and eight-graders have encouraged other students to recycle lunch materials, ink cartridges and clothing and placed a recycling bin next to every garbage can in Larsen Middle School.
And on Friday, the day before Earth Day weekend, members of Larsen’s Green Team asked Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain what challenge they should take on next and how they might make an impact on the city.
Kaptain suggested they carry bags with them when walking around the neighborhood to collect bottles and other litter that can be recycled. But as far as making an impact, he said, “You already have.”
In his push for more sustainability efforts in Elgin, he told the 30-or-so students in the extracurricular club, “I won’t be there in the end, but I hope you guys take my place.”
Green Team sponsor Molley touches on environmental science in her classes, and it’s something that is important to her, she said. But the idea for the club came from her students: Several approached her about four years ago, wanting to “do something more for the community,” she said.
And those students’ passion “makes me feel like I’m making a big difference,” she said.
“It makes it worthwhile. It’s why I went into teaching.”
The students in Stephenson’s class — all higher-level learners, according to their teacher — can tell you who Kony is and what he has done.
They can tell you how you can help stop him, by hanging up posters so everyone knows who he is or showing President Barack Obama you care so he continues to support efforts to arrest Kony or sending a donation online to Invisible Children.
And they can tell you how they have helped: About 25 students started giving up their recesses after watching the video about a month ago, Stephenson said. They researched the situation in Uganda and made posters, announcements, even a PowerPoint presentation to show to Principal Tim Loversky.
To be sure, the topic of child soldiers can be a hard one to address with fifth- and sixth-grade students, Stephenson said. But many of the students in her class come from low-income families and neighborhoods that often appear in police reports, she said.
“When they see this, they know what’s going on. They understand it because they live through it,” she said.
In doing something about it, they learn from it. They learn persuasive writing and about the freedom of speech — sure, Stephenson said.
But most important are the lessons like the one Isaac Basulto, 11, of Carpentersville shared Thursday.
“I feel like us kids can actually make a difference in the world and not just adults,” Isaac said.