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UPDATE: Thank you to all who gave so generously to Vivian’s Writing Wrongs project. We will update you on progress soon.

 

The Story of Writing Wrongs: Student Voices for Justice

Powerful events engender powerful reactions: on March 12, 2014, I was diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease – and suddenly, I had to make acutely intentional decisions about how to allocate my remaining time and energy.

With your support, on May 30, 2014, Phoenix Academy High School students and staff will visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Students will publish Writing Wrongs: Student Voices for Justice.  They will engage their voices to write about encounters with hatred – their own experiences and those of Holocaust victims – through art, poems and essays. The theme of the anthology will be the importance of courageously confronting hatred and injustice with messages of tolerance and justice.

SpeakOut4NCTeachersStudy of the Holocaust, like no other subject matter, evokes from students a healthy outrage against injustice and inaction. During my two-decade career as a high school teacher, I was a Belfer Teaching Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and taught Holocaust studies in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from 2006-2010. This profound study led my students to create Voices Activated, an activism club that promoted justice and equity and that raised thousands of dollars to combat genocide in Sudan and the Congo.

I left teaching in 2010 to have a voice in public policy, then in 2013, I graduated from UNC Law and joined the North Carolina Bar. While awaiting my diagnosis, I have advocated for public education as a member of Public Schools First, NC’s Advisory Board. I have also worked with students at Phoenix Academy High School in Chapel Hill, and as always, I have fallen in love with the kids I teach. These uniquely challenged and uniquely gifted students, many of who have experienced exclusion and intolerance, become enabled at Phoenix to find their voices and contribute their talents to society. These students will be powerfully impacted and empowered by this project.

In a just and democratic society, every member is able to contribute to civic debate and members continue to work for the ideals they espouse. If our country is to achieve its ideals of “liberty and justice for all,” we must insist upon equity and inclusion, assuring access to quality education for every child, so that every citizen may effectively participate in the democratic process.

Thus, my diagnosis and passions inspire this journey – this project that I hope reflects my deepest beliefs about the truly worthy pursuits of this limited time we call a human life. Writing Wrongs will provide educational enrichment to some of our most vulnerable students and will reflect their rich and powerful voices back upon the society that invests in them.

I would like my legacy to pronounce that education is our best hope for improving our world and that raising our voices in the defense and promotion of our loftiest ideals is essential to genuinely be the great nation of opportunity and justice that we wish to be.

Vivian Connell