Students host Social Justice Week to promote awareness for various issues: Events include panels and discussions on topics ranging from hunger to human trafficking

Posted by Julia Leef

Students Najwa Webster '14 and Timothy Kim '15, as well as members of Skidmore VISTA and alumna Jennifer Au '11, are organizing Social Justice Week from March 26 to 30, to raise awareness about hunger, domestic violence, education, refugee, human trafficking and class through the theme, "Creative Action Matters."

The idea for this event originated at the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference last November, which motivated a select group of students to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which took place two weeks later. This semester, the group decided to host a social justice week.

"We wanted to include other injustices that we cared about," Sushi Au '11 said. Au was hired by Michelle Hubbs, director of Community Service Programs, as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the year. "We also wanted input from other students because we definitely were not the only ones of campus who cared about justice."

Au's job in the AmeriCorps, a federal community service organization, is to alleviate poverty in Saratoga Springs through her work with the campus. She works with three nonprofit organizations in the Capital Region, although this week's events are not associated with any of them.

In the initial announcement to the College, Au said that more than 30 people showed an interest in participating in the event, however, that number eventually decreased to fewer than 15 students, who now serve as the event's core team.

"The students who organized this week chose injustices they were passionate about," Au said. "We decided not to touch upon race and sexuality because the Office of Student Diversity Programs already covered it, but instead, we wanted to shine light on issues that weren't talked about much on campus."

Each issue will have its own day, during which students may learn more about it through such events as panels, dialogues, simulations, and a fair-trade market.

The core group began planning at the beginning of the semester and divided into six teams, each addressing a different issue, and met as a group weekly. Au helped students connect with the appropriate resources, find volunteers, obtain supplies and equipment and worked with the team for the human trafficking awareness day. She also made sure students would be able to carry out the event next year without her help.

"My service year ends in August, but the students who planned this event now known how to plan one and what to do," Au said.

Many clubs and faculty supported the group's actions, including the Student Government Association and the Committee of Diversity Affairs, whose members offered tips and advice on outreach techniques.

Benef-Action, a student-run volunteer club that develops and supports community service among the student body, provided a place to collect co-sponsorships since the group is not a club and therefore does not have a budget. Several co-sponsors include: Inter-Group Relations, the Feminist Action Network, the Christian Fellowship and the Center of Sex and Gender Relations.

There will be a follow-up group meeting, most likely next Wednesday, to review the event and improve for the years ahead. Au said she has hoped since her first year at the College to have a social justice club on campus and is excited to see where students will take the idea.

A full schedule of this week's events may be found here .

"We want students to know that they have the resources and skills to take action," Au said. "Knowing about an issue is great, but without action, we can't change the world. And there are so many ways to act."

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