The event was a forum which focused on human rights and was held in Normal.
Egyptian High School history teacher Darrel Dexter handpicked several students to participate in the event. This was Egyptian’s second year to attend the forum.
Egyptian is the southernmost school in Illinois to attend the forum, with Quincy being the next most southern school.
The Illinois Capitol Forum on America’s Future, a year-long civic education opportunity, raises international awareness and promotes informed civic exchange among high school students statewide.
Egyptian students who went to the forum included Savannah Arnhart, Noah Dillingham, Jerry Dunning, Raven Grundy, Tristan Parker, Ashanti Wade and Kimber White.
Several lessons were available for the students to learn about. Each student picked two to attend.
Student Kimber White picked the privacy lesson.
She said that there was a big difference in her opinion versus those students from metropolitan areas.
“We were asked whether an open field has maximum privacy or no privacy,” White said.
“City kids thought fields had no privacy and I thought they had maximum privacy.”
Savannah Arnhart chose a lesson about military laws.
“We learned about the law systems” and differences in death penalties, Arnhart said.
Tristan Parker was in a session about freedom of expression.
One of the biggest things she learned is that “everyone has a right to their own opinion,” Parker said.
Other topics included sex trafficking, children’s rights and labor laws.
They also held discussions about case studies.
For example, the students were asked if the government should spend money on prevention of AIDS or helping those who are already affected by AIDS.
Several Egyptian students said they chose prevention, while the majority of students from other schools chose to help those already affected.
The forum brought in several human rights experts to talk with the students. Experts who came to the forum included:
- Andrea Alvarez, community lawyer and citizen advocacy center representative.
- Dr. J.D. Bowers, associate vice provost, university honors and associate professor of history, Northern Illinois University.
- Nisan Chavkin, executive director, Constitutional Rights Foundation, Chicago.
- Pamela Twyman Hoff, assistant professor of education administration and foundations, Illinois State University.
- Dr. Patricia Olsen, associate professor of history, Illinois State University.
- Caleb Probst, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
Once their trip was complete, their work with human rights was not over.
The group of students who went to the forum, along with other students Roman Hrescak, Cambria Bigham and Dylan Hale, started on an outreach project at the Tamms school.
Each student chose a hero of human rights. They each wrote a speech and presented it to a panel of judges.
Some of the heroes selected by the students were Nelson Mandela, John Brown, Rosa Parks and Andrei Sakharov.
Their projects are currently displayed in the main lobby at Egyptian School for students and staff to see.
“Capitol Forum has been a great experience for my students. The curriculum encourages them to not only examine human rights issues at home and around the world, but form their own opinion about the issues,” Dexter said.
“They learn to listen to many sides of an issue, hear opposing views from other students and to respectfully share their opinions. In a world of intolerance, those are great skills to have.”