GATE 2016: Students Embrace Their Role as Global Changemakers

Global Action Through Engagement (GATE) 2016 is in the books and it was a week to remember, both for the participants and the organizers.  On July 20th, sixteen students from Wisconsin and Illinois converged on the UW-Milwaukee (UWM) campus for four days and three nights of collaboration and learning with their peers.  Students came from varying backgrounds; public school and private school, rural and urban, international explorers and local school leaders.  The common thread among the GATE participants however was an interest in social justice and human rights, along with a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to explore the issues with an open mind.

Aside from the fun experience of meeting new people and living on campus for a few days, GATE featured a wide range of interactive learning opportunities.  Activities included individual research and presentations on rights contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child through a collaboration with the UWM Libraries, the creation of a “youth voice” video about breaking stereotypes, and mud stenciling on campus to raise awareness about children’s rights, a partnership with UWM’s ArtsECO program. Students also had the opportunity to visit the Arts @ Large gallery in Milwaukee to view high school student work exploring issues of women’s rights and gender-based violence.  Guest speaker experiences included an intimate Q&A with Dana World-Patterson, Chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee and a Skype interview organized at Arts @ Large with Rwandan Genocide survivor and women’s rights activist Dydine Umunyana.

A highlight of the week was the Global Changemakers Gallery and Reception in the UWM student union.  Joining the young people from GATE were Milwaukee students from local youth organizations TRUE Skool and Urban Underground as well as students participating in UWM’s MKE Scholars bridge program and English as a Second Language program.  The evening started off with a silent gallery of photos, quotes, and video on the theme of children’s rights.  After silent interaction and reflection, the participants moved into the reception hall for dinner discussion facilitated by Urban Underground students and a presentation by guest speaker Fadia Thabet.  Ms. Thabet recently completed a Humphrey Fellowship at the University of Minnesota after working as a Child Protection Officer in her home country of Yemen.  Her presentation highlighted her experiences working with children affected by armed conflict, including child soldiers.  We all felt privileged to have had the opportunity to hear her story and get to know her on a personal level.  Ms. Thabet has a passion for human rights, particularly children’s rights, and following the presentation she took the time to answer questions from the students.  When asked about what types of action students can take when confronted with violence both locally and globally Fadia answered “I always choose peaceful action.” No matter how small or powerless you may feel in the face of global injustices and violence, small peaceful actions can make a big difference.

All who were present at GATE 2016 witnessed the beauty and power of what happens when passionate individuals get together in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere for discussion and personal reflection on issues they all care about.  Regardless of personal background, each and every student ended the week feeling empowered to make change in the world.  Sixteen very capable young leaders and global changemakers left UWM on Saturday to go back home to their communities.  We can all feel confident that the future is in great hands.

Written by Jason Basquin with contributions by Sam Domine and Nicole Palasz

Jason is a post-baccalaureate student in the school of education.  Currently pursuing his teaching certification in social studies with a particular interest in the relationship between geography and history.  He’s proud to have been a member of the IWA K-12 outreach team during the summer and looks forward to having the opportunity to collaborate with Dina and Nicole in the future.

*Partially funded by a Title VI National Resource Center grant through the U.S. Department of Education.