November 7, 2013
Your commitment and involvement as supporters of and participants in The World As It Could Be Human Rights Education Program (TWAICB) has made it possible to advance the positive impact of our work. With this message I want to outline the next exciting phase of the Program, as I now transition out as Executive Director of the Rex Foundation to focus on TWAICB. Thank you, in advance, for reading through all of the information that follows.
This past September, TWAICB was approved as a project of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League of Alameda County (DSAL). DSAL is an organization I became familiar with several years ago when Hilary Sohcot Bass, my daughter, began working there to implement programs that build strong, healthy connections and opportunities for positive engagement for members of the Ashland Community, an unincorporated area of Alameda County. As you’ll see by visiting their website, DSAL has created and now administers outstanding programs, including an urban farm, soccer leagues and health education initiatives in partnership with county agencies, corporations, the school district, and other key collaborators. One partner, the San Lorenzo Unified School District, which includes Arroyo High School, has been a collaborator of TWAICB since 2007. DSAL has also participated in TWAICB by having youth leaders attend our 3-day Institute and by presenting TWAICB curriculum in community forums. Hilary is now the Executive Director of DSAL, adding a wonderful dimension to this collaboration.
The impetus to forge this new connection with DSAL came from the confluence of the following:
- This past June, REACH, a $24 million youth center opened, the result of 9 years of work generated by Hilary and the youth she brought together when she began working in the Ashland community. Here is a clip from the local NBC coverage of the opening of REACH to offer perspective on the significance of this occurrence.
- This past March, TWAICB presented a program at Balboa High School that included a presentation by Frederick Marx, internationally acclaimed, Oscar and Emmy nominated producer/director popularly known for his film Hoop Dreams, on his current documentary film Rites of Passage–The Right of Every Child Born (working title) about the importance of rites-of-passage that initiate youth into their communities. Here is a link to the write-up and video segments of that event. Hilary, along with her manager, Lt. Martin Neideffer, indicated, at the close of the event, their interest in having DSAL and REACH be involved in the work compelled by the event discussion.
- The REACH Center, which stands for Recreation, Education, Arts, Career and Health, is governed by county agencies representing each component, with, for example, DSAL leading the Recreation component, and the San Lorenzo Unified School District representing Education. With its vision and collaborative community agency/organization governance structure, REACH provides the ideal environment to develop a community-led rite-of-passage initiation process for youth that can be a national model for creating a thriving human rights culture.
- DSAL, with its overall mission and breadth of programs, including REACH, geared to generating a positive culture of community connections, provides an ideal structure to utilize the assets of TWAICB for its own programs, as well as being a hub for expanding the presence of TWAICB in other communities.
On November 14th, the first meeting between TWAICB and REACH representatives will take place to begin planning a community-led rite-of-passage to welcome, initiate and celebrate REACH youth as engaged members of the community, using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guiding framework. Our plan is to have the first graduation class of 20 youth present their culminating work in December 2014!
I will be overseeing TWAICB, with Violette Rodriguez Sofaer continuing to provide her outstanding staff support. We have an ambitious 2013-14 Plan to guide our efforts, which includes not only the work with REACH, but also our continuing initiatives to:
- Expand the utilization of our curriculum,
- Deepen the impact of the curriculum with our participating schools,
- Advance our collaborations around the training of current and future teachers, and
- Continue to raise broad awareness about the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Human Rights Education, overall, to fostering a culture that manifests the principles of the UDHR.
Hopefully, after reading this update, you are as excited as I am about the upcoming work of TWAICB. I look forward to your continuing involvement as we take TWAICB to its next level of positive impact.