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Active and Engaged: PMSA Students Study Human Rights and Genocide in South Africa

PMSA students traveled the seas to Africa without ever leaving the U.S. in their up close and personal civics lesson on human rights, activism, and genocide.

Carl Wilkens, the former head of Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) in Rwanda, visited Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy. Wilkens was the only American who chose to remain in Kigali, Rwanda once the genocide began in 1994. His choice to stay enabled him to prevent the massacre of hundreds of children over the course of the genocide. Now he’s on a multi-city tour of the United States to share his story with students, teachers, activists, policy makers and community members.

As he shared his experiences with PMSA students, Wilkens spoke about the courage and resilience he witnessed in Rwanda, while encouraging PMSA students that they have the power to make a difference.

“Kids haven’t settled for less,” said Wilkerson. “There’s still an opportunity to shape the way they see others. It’s our responsibility to help teach students how to think twice about the people and situations they encounter and also to let them know that one person can make a difference. They have the power.”

Wilkens shared video and photos from his journey in Rwanda and answered questions from the students throughout the day.  Students said the message was well received.

“This was a really great class,” said PMSA junior Dan Black. “I learned so much about what happened in Africa during the genocide. Today, Wilkens taught us that if we hear about something happening in the world, we can’t and we shouldn’t just sit around. We should take action.”

PMSA junior Patty Graph agreed.

“Today was fantastic,” said Graph. “Today was something that we needed. It’s important to learn about what is happening in the world. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and problems. But we also have to understand the world around us.”

PMSA Principal Ed Moyer said he hoped that students would gain more than a civics lesson from the day. He hoped they would walk away in search of ways to take action.

“If these conversations don’t extend beyond today, this will have been a waste of time,” Moyer told students. “We have to continue these conversations and ask the question what happens next. That’s what I hope you leave here with today.  We have to ask ourselves what we can do.”

Wilkens’ visit was a part of a series of studies on history from PMSA’s “Facing History” partnership. Through “Facing History,” PMSA students study a wide range of historic events. These lessons are used to teach students to think critically, to recognize moral choices, to make their voices heard, and to take responsibility.

To learn more about Carl Wilkens and his journey click here http://worldoutsidemyshoes.org/. To learn more about “Facing History” click here http://www.facinghistory.org/.

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