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SJSC: CA’s ”Gentle Advocates”

Let me introduce you to a most important group at the Academy that you may not be aware of: the Social Justice and Sustainability Committee. SJSC, led by students Melanie Knopp’13, Andi Li’13, Sarah Poehlman’13, and faculty advisor, Mr. Kyle Tong, has spread awareness about humanitarian issues for a decade. Without flash or fanfare, SJSC has brought in a multitude of interesting speakers, sponsored fundraisers, sold home grown organic produce, and, perhaps most impressively, given out 29 microloans to worthy individuals and groups in need literally in every corner of the globe.

One of the most striking characteristics of SJSC is how student led it is, and how disciplined its student leadership is. SJSC has a fluid membership of 15-25 people including, as noted above, an all junior leadership group. Clearly, this group of young activists has an incredible mentor in Mr. Tong, who has imparted the concept of “gentle activism” and action-based leadership to this group. While almost every other group in the school sends out messages with colorful text and utilizes social networking, SJSC keeps it simple.  That is not to say publicity is a self-absorbed excess for other groups, only that SJSC prefers to keep its status low key. This is because SJSC prefers to make an impact by influencing others in gentle ways.

The Invisible Children assembly is no exemption. While it was hardly advertised as an SJSC event, it made an impact on everyone who attended, bringing the issue of child soldiers into many students’ consciences for the first time. As students left the heartbreaking assembly, thinking of the suffering endured not by the nameless thousands, but by human beings, particularly a charismatic young boy named Tony, SJSC had done its job. It had not preached a far away cause, but rather brought the frontline of a previously unconsidered issue to Academy. In addition to donating $900 to the Invisible Children, not including product sales, the team had reminded the community to step outside the realm of tests and essays, and watch the life of a child growing up in a war torn country.

As I sat in on its routine lunch meeting the following Thursday, SJSC was back to business. Humble as ever, Andi, Melanie, and Sarah broke down the assembly over black bean veggie wraps and tacos. After fifteen minutes of discussing improvements for next year’s assembly, it was on to the next issue. When is the next organic coffee sale? Will the administration let us sell coffee ready to drink in the morning? How can we improve the micro lending program? As usual, these meetings will not be celebrated. In fact, most people won’t even know they took place. Instead, our community will be educated on issues of humanity that we would not, otherwise, see. In this sense, SJSC is the guardian of humanity at the Academy. We do not often see SJSC. We do not often about hear it, but we feel its presence in more ways than we are aware, and for that, we are grateful.

Written by Harry Wexner’13


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