There is little question that California's public schools are in deep crisis. Once one of the nation's leaders, the state currently ranks 47th in spending per student. California spends more housing felons in prisons ($9.6 billion in 2011) than on higher education ($5.7 billion same year).
The question remains how schools can possibly reverse the continued deterioration in their services on already drastically limited budgets.
Demonstrating youth's role in reversing these disturbing conditions, a team of ten students from several Pasadena public high schools put on a well-attended forum this past Saturday, December 8 at Pasadena City College.
The event, commemorating United Nations Human Rights Day, culminated the team's year-long "Education and Responsibility" campaign and premiered Finding Our Voice, the students' documentary film on what young people can do to help improve the quality of their education.
Tim Bowles, a Pasadena attorney, and volunteer director for the sponsoring organization Youth for Human Rights International, oversaw the forum. "My fellow mentors and I have been inspired to work with these outstanding young women and men. Today, these team members come of age as true leaders in and advocates for their community."
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard delivered the main address, praising the team's work. Noting that December 10 marks the 64th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mayor Bogaard observed, "while many of our citizens tend to presume that human rights violations only occur in other countries, once an individual understands what human rights are, his or her eyes open to many abuses that can occur all too regularly in our city, community and region including bullying, gang violence, human trafficking and many other human rights violations . . . "
The short documentary, Finding Our Voice, directed by award-winning filmmakers Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir of Dolce Films, covers the students' year-long project not only to understand the declining trends in public education but to find their own role in reversing what they found the most critical crisis of all, how to get the bulk of classmates to care about school.
The film's production was made possible by private donations, including from BTI Communications, Inc., AGR Group, Inc., Alpha Structural, Inc. and Yael Lir Landscaping.
Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to worldwide human rights education using the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It inspires and equips young people as advocates for tolerance and peace. YHRI works with educators, civil servants, religious leaders, youth, and any person or organization of good will. The organization distributes audiovisual and printed human rights educational materials that may be ordered from its website: www.youthforhumanrights.org. The Church of Scientology and the International Association of Scientologists have been primary supporters of YHRI since its inception in 2001.