Human Rights Initiative Sparked at David Starr Jordan High School

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International delegates to the Youth for Human Rights Summit hosted by South Los Angeles high school.

David Starr Jordan High School hosted the 2nd Annual celebration of Youth for Human Rights Day with an international youth summit in which Jordan students sat alongside youth delegates from around the world, including Australia, Turkey, Canada, Vietnam, Italy, Switzerland, South Africa, Ethiopia, a total of 18 countries in all.

Microphones stood poised to catch commentary of 40 plus youth who tackled pressing human rights issues both locally and around the world. The event was organized by Youth for Human Rights International (http://www.youthforhumanrights@org) with support from the Human Rights Dept. of the Church of Scientology (

Mayor James Hahn was first to declare Youth for Human Rights Day International on the 1st of October, 2004, on the south lawn of City Hall, where more than 600 elementary students from 13 schools participated in an interscholastic summit. On the 3rd of October 2005, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa acknowledged the Day and the International Youth Summit held at David Starr Jordan Senior High in the Watts district of Los Angeles. A state Resolution was passed by Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-52) honoring the school and recognition was extended by Councilwoman Janice Hahn (Council District 15). Dell Huff, Education Deputy of County Supervisor Yvonne Burke (District 2), presented a certificate to acknowledge the school, Youth for

Human Rights International and the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles for the roles they played.

International Executive Director of Youth for Human Rights, Tim Bowles, practicing attorney in Pasadena, reminded those gathered that the UN

Declaration of Human Rights establishes that freedom from material poverty is a basic human right, then added, "There is a more dangerous and debilitating poverty -- a poverty of inspiration, born of apathy -- and you must cut through the apathy and hopelessness of your fellows to create a movement of human rights awareness and action. . . . You are the future. It is up to you to create that future," Bowles told the youth."

The Summit was moderated by Gino Montesinos, a Harvard Drama School grad and successful film actor. He described a childhood in Harlem, New York, dominated by petty crime and purposelessness and posed the idea that had he known his human rights, his early life would have been very different, and he would not have taken the detours that he took before finally pursuing his own dream of being an actor. From such frame of reference, Montesinos challenged the delegates and the students to find ways to spread the knowledge of the principles covered in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Al Johnson, Counselor at Jordan High who worked closely with event organizers to produce the Summit said, "Events such as the one held at

Jordan High School are extremely rare. Today our leadership students interacted with student delegates from around the world. Initially they talked amongst themselves and soon it was as if they knew each other very well. They exchanged emails, shared a great lunch and most importantly, they were able to discuss issues that included freedoms, student involvement in making change, their own improvement and that of others. Finally, when the delegates left our campus, many of our students were sad but now they know that they have the task at hand to continue to involve others in the work of making the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights become a reality." By conference end, three projects were initiated

for international implementation by delegates and students. These include a network coordination project, a religious commonalities project, a project to teach children using a YHRI human rights education package and a translation project to reach youth who speak in local dialects.

YHRI President, Mary Shuttleworth, stated that Youth for Human Rights International is there to back up youth in their efforts, and provide them with tools to carry out their cause. The first tool created to overcome ignorance of human rights worldwide and stop human rights violations is a booklet, "What are Human Rights,” which enables youth to understand that they have human rights and what they are. The award-winning music video, "United," has resulted in an international movement for human rights, and has now inspired a film festival to give youth a forum to address human rights issues through the medium of film.

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Barb Dakin
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