Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nov. 9th edition of Sunday Night Live with Stephanie Woods

By: Harry Waisbren

I am very excited to tune in to Stephanie's show tonight at 6 pm, as she will be interviewing a dear friend of mine who has been more inspirational to the work I am doing than I could possible express. I met and got to know Mitra Jalali when we partnered through Campus Progres to work on a True Cost of War Iraq rally for the Iraq/Recession campaign. I can honestly say that the event would not have happend without Mitra, as there is no one else that I have met who is more knowledgable about campus activism, and both her tenacity and sunny optimism were essential to bringing this event to fruition. I was upset that I met her so late that this was to be the only event we could work on, and I firmly believe that the city of Madison as a whole lost a great asset when she graduated. However, in consolation for the loss for our city and the personal loss to those who miss her, Mitra has become an even brighter light for us to follow.

Mitra currently has taken it upon herself to teach disadvantaged and troubled kids who have been rocked by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I firmly believe that this is amongst the most patriotic acts of anyone in the country, and being able to learn about this experience, much less speak to her about it, has been a wholehearted inspiration for me.

It is imposssible for me to do justice in describing what her experience has been like in my words, which is why I couldn't possibly reccomend Mitra's blog Badger Fems enough:

This is my uncut, unapologetic account of life in Teach For America/at Schwarz Alternative Middle/High School (or, as we refer to it, Schwarz Academy).  I teach 10th grade social studies, but it's really more like 9th, 10th, and 12th grade, because they tend to put all the kids in one class with me since everyone is so far off their grade level in ability.  Schwarz Academy is an alternative school for students expelled from "regular" schools in the Recovery School District (the public school district set up by the state in Orleans Parish following Hurricane Katrina).  The students at my school have all committed Level 3 offenses.  That means they did anything ranging from chronic and intense disrespect of a teacher, to destruction of school property, to fights/gun or weapon possession/drug charges.  I can't give you a "regular school" perspective, but in many ways, the alternative school setting is incredibly representative of "the system" as a whole once you peel back the layers of the alt school myths and preconceptions.
If it weren't for people like Mitra our government's continuing criminal negligence of New Orleans would be even more encompassing. However, because of the fact that our country can still foster people like her, I am able to maintain hope that the worst of America can be overcome by the best of America, and that the true ideal of the American Dream will evenually be. 

I suspect that Mitra is embarrassed by my heaping praise of her and her work, but I believe it is of the upmost necessity to alert especially her to the magnamity of the work she is doing. I doubt that she has even realized that she is firmly entrenching herself amongst the young leaders of America with the highest potential to bring about real change, and if my showing such overt appreciation for what she is doing is of any help to her it is perhaps the greatest act of activism I have taken myself. 

I consider it an honor to have her as a friend, as Mitra is living proof that one person really can make a difference. Our country desperately needs to follow her model, as we need many more of our citizens to follow her lead and begin to work in the trenches for the dream of equality. I aim to help amplify her work as much as I possibly can for this very purupose, as the existential impact of her work is only beginning as she starts to tell her story and inspire those around her. Anyone who hears about her experiences will become that much more motivated to work for real change, as they will be able to recognize the potential impact one person could really make.

For that, I am not only excited to listen in to Stephanie's show, but am exceedingly greatful that she is helping me spread word about what this true American treasure is doing! 

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