Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Human Rights Week at Gordon College

Story by Rachel Bell ’12

Ashlie Busone ’14 has been busy with more than her regular school work. The secondary education and Spanish double major recently helped organized three guest speakers, two chapel services, a documentary-screening, a faculty panel, the Red Cross blood-drive, a coffee house, and an education summitall elements of her to-do list in planning Gordon’s third annual Human Rights Week.

“This year the Human Rights Week theme was Justice at Home," said Busone. “Specifically, we wanted to center Gordon students on global issues that are truly beginning and taking place in our backyard.”

Busone is vice president of the Human Network, a GCSA club with a six-member core committee. The Human Network was responsible for coordinating multiple justice-themed events for the week long series and invited author Mike Yankoski as this year's keynote speaker.

“We all decided that because of his similar background—attending a Christian liberal-arts school and growing up in a middle class community—he'd serve as a great example of practical ways to exercise justice at home and abroad that students might relate to,” said Busone. During the Monday morning chapel service, Yankoski told the audience he did not think about issues of poverty and injustice when he was growing up until he went on a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic. “Poverty went from being an abstract idea to being a person, he said. Then as a college sophomore, Yankoski and a friend felt called to experience homelessness from the inside and for five months they lived and pan-handled on the streets of six different cities covering Denver, Washington, D.C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego. “I don’t pretend to understand what it is like to be homeless for 15 years and never know if you’re going to get off the streets,” said Yankoski, “but those five months provided a window into a very different world that is still a part of our world.”

Yankoski recorded his experience in the book Under the Overpass. He shared how his time on the streets taught him important lessons about justice from a uniquely Christian perspective and about the role Christians play in either perpetuating or opposing injustice. “Being a neighbor is less about geographic proximity and more about a way of living,” he said. “It’s more about our relationship to people.”

Dr. Marilyn Maye, a graduate professor of education at New Jersey City University, shares Yankoski’s faith in the power of relationships. At the Gordon-hosted education summit on Friday, March 30th, she and four other education experts discussed the need for reform in America's school systems.

“There are dedicated people working in public schools against all the odds,” said Maye, “and I believe in the power of the individual to transform those systems.”

Maye and others on the panel discussed issues such as racial differences in education, the need to make education more accessible, the role of education in alleviating poverty, and the need to better support America’s teachers. The education summit was jointly sponsored by the Human Network, the Office of Community Engagement, and the Academic Affairs Council, and was the final event of Gordon's Human Rights Week.

At the summit, Busone said that as an education major and a student at a liberal arts college, she has a passion for education reform as well as for local justice. “I truly believe my faith in a God who cares about justice should translate to my interest and pursuit of it,” she said. “I've been learning and growing so much throughout my time here at Gordon and serving on the core committee of the Human Network is one way for me to integrate faith and work and do something about what I'm learning.” 

Photo: Keynote speaker Mike Yankoski speaks in the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel during Human Rights Week at Gordon College. Listen to keynote speaker Mike Yankoski's talk on Gordon's YouTube Channel.

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