Liberation Through Education

Posted on September 1st, 2009 by

This year, Building Bridges is focusing on ways that education influences individuals and communities.

This year, Building Bridges is focusing on ways that education influences individuals and communities.


By Hanna Schutte ’11

Learning about issues that affect the world leads to change… for the better.

But what if you never have an opportunity for an education?

How can we help people, both in the United States and throughout the world, receive an education?

These questions are the focus of Building Bridges Conference 2009, titled “Liberation Through Education” and slated for Saturday, March 14 on campus.

The Building Bridges Conference began 14 years ago as a student-led effort to promote diversity issues and dialogue. It has evolved from just talking about these topics to engaging in action. This year, Building Bridges is focusing on ways that education influences individuals and communities.

Educational inequality around the world is an essential topic. It has such a huge impact on a person’s life,” said senior Rita Stevermer, co-chair of the 2009 Building Bridges executive committee.

This year’s Building Bridges effort has already helped people around the world get an education through a book drive where more than 25,000 books were collected to aid students in Uganda.

This year’s Building Bridges Conference will begin with a 10 a.m. address by keynote speakers Erin Gruwell and Maria Reyes. Erin Gruwell began her teaching career with a class that consisted of the lowest-performing students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. She taught students who had grown up facing extreme racial division and violence. With her support and teaching, the students were able to rethink their beliefs and restructure their futures. Many of the students, who had not been expected to graduate, went on to earn college degrees. Maria Reyes was one of Gruwell’s first students and Freedom Writers.

Following the keynote speakers, conference-goers have a variety of workshops they may attend throughout the afternoon. That evening, as part of the action initiative, students and community members will engage in educational activities with local first through fourth grade students.

“We want them to know that learning is fun,” said senior Alli Linn, co-chair of the 2009 Building Bridges executive committee. Currently seeking volunteers, the interactive evening event will feature a variety of engaged learning activities, as well as the opportunity to purchase books for the students to take home.

“We want people to have an appreciation for what is going on regarding educational inequality, but also to feel a sense of empowerment,” said Linn. “We hope people will say, ‘Wow, what can I do to help?’ “And then be able to start right in with the workshops and activities,” reaffirmed Stevermer.

With an event-packed day, conference-goers will have ample opportunity to find ways they can make a difference regarding “Liberation through Education.”

The Building Bridges Conference is open to the public, but tickets are required. Members of the public may purchase tickets for $8 each. Tickets are complimentary for local high school and college students, as well as for all Gustavus students, faculty, and staff members. Advance registration is required and may be done online.

Questions may be directed to the Building Bridges Committee, or the Gustavus Diversity Center at 507-933-7449.

 

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