Story and photos by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
“You are here to be part of the solution.”
That’s how Chief Sealth International High School student Clarissa Perez (who you met here in January) opened the two-day Washington Global Issues Network conference at CSIHS this morning. It’s truly global, with participants from multiple nations as well as multiple schools.
Willard, Justice, and Rose from the Muckleshoot Tribe delivered greetings in the Native language Lushootseed. “As you do this work, we want to raise our hands to you,” he said, before they sang.
Also during the opening gathering in the Sealth auditorium, videos previewed some of the first workshops, including environmental club members from Ingraham HS extolling the virtues of recycling, Nathan Hale HS students discussing the need for more teachers of color, The Evergreen School students talking about visiting a woman-led NGO in Peru called Awamaki, Cleveland HS students previewing their water workshop, and other students with focuses from building tiny houses to climate change to combating infectious diseases.
Keynoter Erin Jones introduced herself as a “quadra-lingual” and greeted the students in a multitude of languages. Her message was about “your power and what you are doing and why what you are doing is so important.” She talked about organizing a major event while attending high school in The Netherlands and moved on to her topic Living On Purpose – addressing the students as “world-changers.” She also spoke about her campaign for state superintendent: “Losing is an incredible gift … I’ve lost a lot in my life … Embrace the losing.”
Being a world-changer, she said, involves three key points:
*Having clear purpose and dreams (“dream a dream that’s bigger than you”)
*Investing in self and others
*Committing to act with courageous love (“are you willing to stand in the gap for people who don’t have a voice?”)
She shared a few highlights of her great life – which started at a hospital where she was left by her white mother, with no knowledge of her black father, adopted by a white family, not all of whom accepted her. She told personal stories of her life, from that point on – as an athlete, a mom, an educator – that evoked laughter and tears. “You have opportunities in your life to hate or to love,” she advised, urging the students to choose love. Another message: “You get to be world-changers right now. … Find something to believe in. … Don’t be average.”
She got a standing ovation.
On stage after her, former Sealth/now Ingraham teacher Noah Zeichner, a co-founder of the conference, which evolved from World Water Week, dating back to 2011. introducing Seattle Public Schools superintendent Denise Juneau, who said she was “mostly here to thank the organizers … of this incredible student-led event.”
Like Jones, Juneau told her story, “from Head Start to Harvard” and on to education. She said she is committed to student involvement, and to equity: “Representation matters. … We’re going to listen to your voices, because you make us better.”
The conference continues with afternoon workshops, dinner tonight keynoted by Lt. Gov Cyrus Habib, and events tomorrow; here’s the schedule.