By Altana and Emma
The Manhattan Country School Activism Project is an annual and year-long initiative that is based around student inquiry and leadership on issues of crucial impact in the local and global communities. The MCS seventh and eighth graders, students of the fifth floor, define activism as, “when a person or group of people fight against something they think is wrong or fight for something that they think is right.”
Each year, MCS students redefine activism, identify an issue of immediate importance and design a project to address that concern. The student group is led by a small student steering committee, the activism committee, which facilitates communication, fundraising and programming decisions. The project alternates yearly between a locally-based initiative, and a project based around national and/or global themes, which can require substantial fundraising efforts. Past projects have included:
- lobbying in Washington, D.C. and Albany,
- volunteering with community-based NYC nonprofits (2005)
- assisting elementary schools in the Mississippi Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (2006),
- a “Speak-Out Against Hate” in Central Park (2007),
- a collaboration with Camp Sunshine (2008),
- a walk-a-thon to raise funds for the MCS farm’s new solar panel system (2009),
- a trip to West Virginia to engage in comprehensive programming in opposition to Mountain Top Removal coal mining (2010), and
- a project to take a stand against bullying (2011).
This year the fifth floor students of MCS have chosen to support youth immigration in the United States:
“We, the seventh and eighth graders of MCS, believe that this is an important topic for many reasons. Imagine being a young undocumented immigrant, brought from your country of birth to the United States, not by your own choice, but because your family was seeking a better life. Years later, you have a life in the United States — you have friends, a high school diploma, and ties to your community. Imagine then being deported from the only home you have ever known, because a police officer arrested you because you “look” like an “illegal” immigrant. This is what happens to undocumented youth every day as a result of recent legislation. Around the country, you would be unable to get a driver’s license, receive college loans, or get a job that you are otherwise qualified for.
The fifth floor believes this is unjust and we have decided to try to make a change. We understand that diversity is key in building a future for America, and by deporting these young people we are destroying a vital part of America’s future. By lobbying for youth immigration rights we will learn and teach each other not to not judge people by their immigration status, but, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, by the “content of their character.” ”
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