Nestled in a cozy corridor at Charles O’Dickerson High School is a very special room which at points in the day is a home and safe space to students, staff, and a special pet or two. Jane George, an English teacher in the high school, has created this warm and welcoming space where students can go for tea when they feel ill, get troubles off their chest, ask for valued advice, or just come to sit. This space is also the home of the Global Humanism Club and Class.
Global Humanism is made up of 11 truly remarkable students and led by George. “I started the class last year after doing work with my ninth-grade students, (of whom three of the four interviewed were ninth graders that year). A local organization called Words Into Deeds approached me with a grant opportunity and so the ninth grade students all did projects on substance abuse, and some students, with the help of this grant, were selected to present their project at the United Nations.”
Substance abuse falls under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals list under number three, Good Health and Well-being. There are 16 total goals ranging from eliminating poverty, economic and infrastructure development, to clean water and sanitation, which is the focus of this year. According to the UN website, “In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind,’ the new agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.” For the third time, Trumansburg students will travel to the UN conference in March, and represent the United States as they present their projects to members of other countries. Pretty impressive, and inspirational, work. I had the opportunity to sit and interview a few of the students about their projects and how Global Humanism has changed their lives.
Evelyn VanNess“I’m working on a three-part project that includes focusing on water usage in the fashion and food industries, and also how women have to struggle to get water. My first project is a sustainable fashion show that educated people on how water is overused in the fashion industry and how as a consumer they can improve what they are doing with their dollar and putting money into industries that won’t overuse the water. My second project is having a community dinner that focuses on low water usage foods. A lot of our food, especially red meat products, use a ton of water to produce. So, I would like to create a community dinner where people get to explore what it’s like to eat food that uses less water. For my third project, I would like to organize a 5K that would represent the distance some women have to walk to get water each day. This is to bring community awareness, but can also be a fundraiser.”
Orion Vogel-Moore“I am focusing on creating a challenge similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge where I would like people to go without some sort of single-use plastic. Rather than just eliminating all plastic for a week, I would encourage people to eliminate plastic straws for a week, or plastic silverware for a week, or plastic bags for a week. They could choose what to participate in. I would then like to choose a nonprofit organization that focuses on clean water and sanitation as well and gives participants the option to donate to them as well. We will start within the club and then invite other people to join in the challenge.”
Finley Edmonds“I’m working with two other students on testing the water in Ithaca. So we are planning to go to Cornell to get the resources needed to test the ph and the loose sediment and other things in the inlet where the IC and Cornell teams row, as they are ingesting a lot of water and are in the water a lot. We would like to see how polluted it is and present our findings to the community, maybe in a YouTube video. We would like to be able to say, this is what we are living in, this is how we can make it better.”
The club is aiming to raise $10,000, which will cover the cost of travel, room and board, and admission into the conference for all 11 of the students plus George. They have been raising funds through donations, but also have some other fundraising ideas. They are currently selling tickets for a month-long raffle during the month of March, where every day they raffle off an item donated by a local business, and they are also working with a chocolate company called Equal Exchange, a fair trade and environmentally friendly company, that sells not only chocolate, but coffee, tea, fruits and nuts, and baking items.
When asked how Global Humanism has changed their lives, the student’s responses were inspiring.
Evelyn VanNess“I found that having an opportunity like Global Humanism with Ms. George was one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever had happen to me. When I went on the trip in ninth grade I gained so much confidence and a work ethic through the projects we were pursuing. I used my experience with that opportunity in an application to a UN camp and subsequently got in. When I talked to the camp director, she explained that was one of the key points in my acceptance. I was able to travel halfway around the world because of it. This class gives so much confidence and a worldly view. I can’t imagine a better way for students in this area to get outside of their comfort zone and try something new.”
Finley Edmonds“Personally, I wasn’t a big global advocate. I would recycle and I would compost and that was really just about it. I didn’t care about what I was using plastic wise and how I was disposing of it. Then I came to this class and I realized the damage we are doing to this Earth and I realized we don’t have much time to change it. If we’re going to change it we have to change it now.”
Orion Vogel-Moore“I was aware of what is happening, but not the depth of how bad it would be. It seems like a joke, yes, global warming is happening, but it’s not going to affect me in my lifetime. But the reality is all the things it’s affecting are going to be in our lifetime, and it’s not something we can sit and watch happen. It will affect our kids, our grandkids, and ourselves. We need to stop it before it gets worse.”
Dre Capers“Freshman year, I really started thinking about what people in our community can do to better ourselves and this world. It’s the simple things that people don’t do that hurt us as a community, as a whole. Most people don’t try to take action, other than a small group of people. I just want to be a part of that.”
It seems like this club came into these students lives at a critical developmental point, in a moment when they are realizing that it is not just about yourself or your family, or even your local community. That moment when you start to realize you are actually global citizens.
George notes, “One person can really make a difference. If everyone decides they are going to be the one person who is going to recycle and be really responsible for themselves, then we are changing the world. I think what we would like the community to know is we are not just doing this to go to the United Nations, that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to impact our community, to raise awareness locally, and then take it to the next level and spread the word. It’s not just for a fun trip to New York City, it’s really purposeful and meaningful for these kids to get there and have their voices heard because they really do make a difference. Trumansburg kids are not only representing the state of New York, they are also representing the United States.”
George and her students are a powerful example of seeing outside ourselves, our homes, and our communities to seek a sustainable future. If you would like to help fund the important trip to the United Nations, contact Jane George, JGeorge@tburg.k12.ny.us, or follow them on Instagram, @tburgglobalhumanism. Donations can also be sent to the school, Global Humanism Club, C/O Jane George, 100 Whig Street, Trumansburg, NY 14886.
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