Recently, the World Food Program USA, a nonprofit dedicated to ending global hunger, visited Sheridan’s Eighth Grade class in support of a Food Justice and Persuasive Essay unit. The presentation touched eighth grader Toomas Jeyarajah so powerfully that he couldn’t stop thinking about their work. When his teachers asked the class to write a persuasive essay that promoted social justice and challenged prejudice, he immediately knew what he would do: he would write about the need to increase US funding for the World Food Program.
“[The WFP representatives] talked about these besieged areas, and refugees surrounded by ISIS, and how they couldn’t get enough food to them,” Toomas says when explaining what affected him so deeply about the WFP’s presentation. “In order to get food to the refugees, the WFP had to do high-altitude airdrops. Do we really have to go to such extremes to feed people?”
Toomas conducted hours of research as part of his essay project, eager to learn as much as he could about Syrian refugees and their struggle to get enough to eat. Still, he didn’t stop thinking about the WFP even after turning in the essay. When the time came for his family to make an annual donation to a charity, Toomas contributed a portion of his allowance to support the organization’s work.
For the parents of Toomas, his decision seemed fairly routine. For the WFP, however, his contribution represented a powerful statement of commitment and support. Incredibly impressed by both Toomas and the work Sheridan does to educate our students about food justice, they chose to feature our students and teachers in a video promoting their 2017 Share the Meal campaign and mobile app. [See the video here — make sure to scroll down to see the interview with Toomas under “Meet Our Cast”!].
Toomas’s actions and the 8th Grade teachers’ work demonstrate how Social Studies and Language Arts at Sheridan go far beyond the teaching of history and art of essay writing. Learning at Sheridan means exposing our students to the world through a lens of equity and justice, and sometimes that learning inspires actions like those of Toomas — actions that affect people a world away.