Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Park View YUGA group advocates for women's rights

Cranston Herald
June 2, 2010
All text by Jennifer Cowart

Last year the seventh- and eighth-graders at Park View Middle School formed a chapter of Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA).

This year, YUGA is making a difference.

Working with their faculty advisor, Lloyd Bochner, the YUGA students decided to focus on educating their peers about the issues faced by girls in impoverished countries.

“We decided to raise money to sponsor a child,” explained Angelina Marra, an eighth-grader at Park View. “We’re going to write to her for a year and the money will go towards her health care and food.”

Classmate Rachel Moore said a little bit of money from the United States can go a long way in other countries.

“Just $288 a year will help her community with water and houses,” she said. “It also helps other girls learn different types of jobs, not just being stuck in their own community,” student Claire Ramirez-Raftree added.

To increase awareness at their own school about the plight of girls in other countries, the YUGA group decided to host a YUGA Day.

According to Olivia Tagliaferri, a contest took place over the intercom on YUGA Day, with students having to name quotes from different movies to earn prizes, and two different fundraisers took place as well.

“We made bracelets to sell to the students for 50 cents and we had a teacher dress-down day for $1,” said Hekmet Haddada.

Bochner is impressed by the YUGA students’ determination and drive.

“These guys are fantastic. They are very socially driven. I really just advise them,” he said.

Principal Joseph Rotz agreed with Bochner, stating that the program was originally a 10-week after-school program that Bochner volunteered to extend using his own time, due to the high level of interest shown by the students.

“This group of students is a very overachieving, mature group,” Rotz said. “They are very aware of global issues. They’ve really set an example for our students with initiatives like what we’re doing today.”

The YUGA students also created a video, which they shared first with Principal Rotz and then with the other Park View students.

“We decided to interview some staff and students about their knowledge and views of girls and rights. Then we recorded them and put in statistics about how people are living in poverty,” said Marra.

According to Moore, the YUGA students at Park View are pleased with the success of their first YUGA day.

“I think it’s good that we got the word out,” she said.

Alexis Cabral made sure that throughout the day everyone understood why the fundraising and activities were taking place.

“When people asked, I told them why. I told them that it goes towards the girls, and that got people’s attention,” Cabral said.

Rotz feels that the YUGA Day provided valuable lessons for the entire school community and also gave the YUGA group a chance to get involved in an after-school program that they truly believed in.

“This is a perfect example of the value of after-school programs and the role that they play. We need to grab them when they’re this age and point them in the right direction,” Rotz said. “These are the types of things that we need to offer more of.”

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