AFSC Kansas City interns Isabella Fassi, left, and Pearl Webb unfold a graphic demonstrating that 60% of discretionary federal spending goes to the Pentagon. The seated students are from Paseo Arts Academy.Photo: AFSC
Pearl Webb, Isabella Fassi, and Joshua Smith started interning with AFSC in August 2012, to lead youth civic engagement and social action projects in the Kansas City area. Along with Program Coordinator Ira Harritt, the interns teach high school-aged youth about issues in their communities, injustice in the U.S., and how they can help put an end to the injustice and promote greater peace.
For the past several months Joshua, Isabella, Pearl, and Ira have been helping school and youth groups to create films to submit to the national "If I Had a Trillion Dollars” (IHTD) Youth Film Festival. The youth were provided with “Budget 101” and film-making trainings and invited to create short videos detailing how they would spend federal tax dollars to make their neighborhoods, the country, or the world a better place.
The diverse groups with which the interns have worked include the Olathe Ismaili Muslim Youth Group, Paseo Arts Academy students, ArtsTech classes, KCK Learning Club Leadership Academy, reStart Youth Network, and Grandview Alternative School classes.
Working on the IHTD film project with youth in the Kansas City community has been a joy, they say.
“It has been so encouraging to see youth engaged and excited by political and financial issues that affect them and their communities,” says Joshua, who is currently studying at Central Theological seminary. “I hope that this experience has taught them as much as it has taught me.”
“We go into each session expecting to teach something new, and each time, we learn something new,” says Isabella, a University of Missouri senior studying sociology and Spanish. “The diverse perspectives the youth bring to each session and their growing passion for social justice issues is truly inspiring.”
Films created by area youth will be screened at a Kansas City premiere on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Tivoli Theater in Westport, an event organized by Joshua. In April, they hope to bring some of the Kansas City-area filmmakers to AFSC’s national “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Youth Film Festival and civic action training in Washington, D.C.
Also in January, a two-day social action training will be held at the Kansas City AFSC office, led by Isabella. At the training, youth will learn principles of nonviolent social change, and skills of strategic planning, organizing events, and facilitating meetings.
Beginning in the last week of January, the interns will start on-site training for the “If I Could Change the World” spoken word project, which will be led by Pearl. The project is being conducted with The Writers Place and will include an all-day rehearsal workshop and March 23 performance at The Writers Place and performances around the community at traditional and nontraditional venues. (Anyone interested in hosting a performance should contact Ira.)
“I have really enjoyed myself working with the youth and Ira and the other interns,” says Pearl, senior at Park University studying public relations and journalism. “The laughter, and getting out from behind my study desk to get active in my community, is the best trade I could have ever asked for. I am learning something every time we come together, and to know that what I learn I quickly pass on to the young people—that’s an incredible privilege.”
To find out more about AFSC and upcoming projects, visit www.afsc.org/kansascity.