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Being an Upstander

Reporter: Ethan Kahwaty

Walking around East between January 8th to 19th, you may have seen bins labelled “Saving Syria: Clothing for Syrian Refugees.” These bins and the donated clothing in them were part of a final project by students of Mr. Wright’s Current Events class; Ethan Kahwaty (me), Leighann Collins, Leah Bargnesi, Sydney Godzik, and Megan Johnson. They were given the choice of making videos about global topics and presenting them to their class (a bystanding action) or actively helping a cause or group (an upstanding action). Three groups total in the class chose to be upstanders. The two other upstanding actions, beside the Syrian refugee clothing drive, were a clothing drive for WNY Homeless Shelter (students:Jack Baumler, Sydney Fineberg, and Christopher Mostowy ) and a letter writing campaign to Congress to save net neutrality(students: Edward Trevino, Joseph Brown, and Bobby Siembida). All of these projects were completely run and organized by the students. The expectation was not for them to collect bags upon bags of clothing or get instant results from Congress, but to raise awareness for their cause and to help everyone understand that anything they could do would help. The results of the upstanders’ actions were Trevino, Brown, and Siembida successfully held a letter writing session with students from government classes and sent them to congress. The Saving Syria clothing drive collected 30+ bags of clothing and sent them to refugee camps in Jordan and the WNY Homeless Shelter clothing drive collected 5+ bags of clothing at a Varsity Hockey game against Sweet Home. These actions were about more than just getting a grade on a final project. They were about standing up and doing things that you believe needed to be done. I speak for all those involved when I say that our experience was one of the most fulfilling high school experiences and that we hope others will follow our example.

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