A few years back, a Long Beach California teacher named Erin Gruwell worked with inner city students to help them tell their stories through a project know as “Freedom Writers”. Their writings were published as a popular book and the story was made into a successful movie. Richard, our Religious Education teacher, organized a Skype video conference for our 8th grade students with one of those original Freedom Writers, Darrius Garret. Darrius had experienced homelessness and gang life, and many of our kids could identify with the poverty he grew up with.
Our students prepared many questions to ask, but were a bit shy at first. One question was, “How do you handle the hate when you feel like people are treating you like a 2nd class citizen?” Darrius warned how hate consumes you. He told them especially when others treat you wrong, you can’t stoop to their level and still have to do the right thing. That will eventually bring to light the wrongs that exist. He told our kids the best response is to study hard and get a good education so they can be in leadership positions one day, and be able to set examples of how people should be treated.
Once the ice was broken our timid crew started to have more back and forth interaction. Darrius asked our kids how they could make things better for their reservation.
“ If you had a million dollars, what would you fix?”
“Drinking” was the number one answer that continues to cause hurt and heartache for our Native American students’ families. That’s not an easy fix, but helping our students deal with that reality is key for their success. My hope is that our students can find their voice and tell their story, and in the end make it a story of triumph over tragedy.
This afternoon, Steve’s 4th grade class dressed in biblical looking clothes and acted out Stations of the Cross.