Interview with Co-Founder of the Global Awareness Peace Promoters Club at Wichita High School East

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The interview was conducted with Farah W., co-founder of the Global Awareness Peace Promoters club at Wichita High School East. The club has raised over a thousand dollars to build a school in Sierra Leon.

Q. What drives you to take such an active role in the Global Awareness Peace Promoters club?
A. I attended first and second grade in Cairo, Egypt, where I saw some really backwards things. I experienced and witnessed classism at its ugliest. The majority of middle class families had live-in maids: girls and women between the ages of anywhere from ten to seventy who forfeited their chances for education in order to take on the role of primary financial provider for their parents and siblings. I met one particular maid of ten years of age who was constantly verbally abused. I remember asking her if she was Cinderella. She told me she didn't know what a Cinderella was. Meanwhile, I received special treatment among my teachers and peers because they knew I had lived in America. I remember having a problem with that. The intense culture shock from Orlando, Florida to Cairo made me appreciate the American education system and child labor laws. I see GAPP as my way of giving back.

Q. When did you move back to the U.S.?
A. I came to Orlando, FL when I was three years old, and then moved back to Egypt for two years when I was 6 for first and second grade. Then I moved back in 1998, when I was 8, and jumped right back into the American school system as a second grader. Whoa, culture shock! Then I moved to Wichita in 2001.

Q. Why did you want to join the club initially?
A. Hayat S. originally pitched the idea for starting GAPP in 2005. She told me she wanted a club where members would be kept updated with current events (globally aware). I liked the idea of growing more socially aware. It's the reason I had joined Students Against Prejudice freshman year. I told her I also wanted to fundraise for a good cause. We sat down at a bookstore and came up with the recipe for the GAPP mocha shake. I told her about the Arbor Day Foundation's rainforest-grown coffee, she suggested we try it out, and pretty soon we were in business. We first started fund raising for Doctors Without Borders to aid Darfur refugees.

Q. Do you think that students are less capable than adults of making changes in society?
A. Absolutely not, I think students are just as capable as adults of creating social change, if not more so. Students are less likely to passively accept prejudice and the more subtle types of discrimination and social injustice because we haven't yet developed immunity to those things. Students can more easily be immersed in culturally and socioeconomically diverse places like East High than, say an adult in an isolated cubicle interacting with only similar colleagues. Prejudice and ignorance are learned behaviors, anyway. Students play a crucial role in choosing to not practice those behaviors which is social change right there. Whenever I request support from local businesses for GAPP's gift baskets, managers are surprisingly empathetic and supportive. An amazing number of teens are always at Habitat for Humanity work sites. Students can be just as respected and influential in the community as adults can.

Q. What do you think is the most important project G.A.P.P. has undertaken/plans to undertake?
A. It's really difficult to pinpoint GAPP's most important project. I think our most daring venture has been our focus on raising $5000 for Free the Children to fund the building of a school in Sierra Leone through Adopt a Village. We have managed to raise $2,500 so far and we're currently brainstorming ideas for how to earn our last half of our goal. I think our most successful projects have been our holiday themed gift baskets. We assembled 18 gift baskets and auctioned them off to teachers and staff. The contents of the baskets were donated by Il Vicino, Borders, Bradley Fair, Timberline Steakhouse, Target, The Starlite Drive-In, Best Buy, Piccadilly, The Wichita Symphony, Starbucks, Blockbuster, Chili’s, Papa John’s, Red Lobster, Spangles, Marble Slab Creamery, Outback Steakhouse, and photographer Drew Tedlock. It was so rewarding to visit with local managers and earn their GAPP alliance, trust, and respect. The baskets brought in a combined $1,645 towards the school in Sierra Leone thanks to local business support and the dedication of amazingly loyal GAPP members.

Q. How do you balance your job as president with your school responsibilities?
A. Planning out GAPP networking, goals, meetings, obstacle-avoidance, events, and sales takes a lot of time. However, it's also a lot of fun, and easily mixes with my social life. Literally all of my closest friends are GAPP members. Naturally, they come with me to submit proposals to managers or to buy mocha shake supplies. We have fun with it. GAPP is anything but strictly business. Lauren B., a great friend and the official GAPP chef, goes out of her way to prepare snacks for each and every weekly meeting. Margaret K. and Liz W. do fantastic jobs of taking pictures of GAPP events. Liz and Aimee R. design original fliers and larger-than-life posters and ads. Kaitlyn S. hosts basket-assembly parties at her house, where we goof off and wrap baskets, but mostly goof off. Every member does something to make GAPP as successful as it is. Seriously, every single member brings something incredible to GAPP.

Q. What distinguishes G.A.P.P. from other East High groups?
A. GAPP is unique in that it doesn't limit itself to addressing only one type of social injustice. So far we've addressed genocide, HIV/AIDS, rain forest preservation, starvation, economic instability, local homelessness, and the importance of education. This year we plan to sponsor two children through Save the Children: a girl from Egypt and a boy from Bangladesh, support women's education in developing countries, purchase wheelchairs for those who cannot afford them, partner with Interact Club in funding wells, and continue to support Habitat for Humanity. I'm extremely proud to be part of a club that addresses and helps eliminate such a broad scope of social problems. Plus we have GAPP branches in North Carolina and two on the way in Seattle, Washington and New Jersey, all of which originated at East.

Q. What can other students do to make a positive difference in society?
A. Every student has faced some sort of an adversity due to social injustice. If every student stood up and said something about just one specific instance where they or someone they know encountered discrimination and respectfully voiced to an administrator, politician, or the Wichita Eagle that they weren't about to sit there and take it, we'd have a whole lot less problems in this world. I'd say quit passively accepting the things in life that make it harder for you and others to succeed. Watch what happens to your self esteem when you say something.





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