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Grade 8 Capstone Project Spotlights Global Human Rights Issues

Calls to action and the echoes of thought-provoking dialogue regarding global human rights issues could be heard throughout the Taylor Performing Arts Center as the eight students took the stage to deliver their final declamation speeches. The speeches serve as the year-end capstone project for history classes with teachers Bud Kohler and David Sokoloff.

“The Declamation Project gives students the opportunity to take what they have learned in class about human rights issues and develop a deeper sense of global awareness while advocating for topics that are meaningful to them,” said Director of Middle School Brian Christman. “Thank you to Mr. Sokoloff and Mr. Kohler for their incredible work and remarkable efforts with coaching and advising students.”

As part of the Grade 8 history curriculum, all students are required to give a declamation speech on a topic of their choosing with a focus on global human rights issues. Once a student chooses a topic, they perform extensive research, practice public speaking techniques, and put together a written speech that is presented to a series of judges before eight finalists are selected for the final round.

The 2023 finalists were Maryam Bilal, Lilly Knutson, Logan Rapuano, Jaycey Ressler, Alessandra Sticca, Nana Winston-Ashie, Allison Yang, and Cooper Zebrowski. Five faculty members served as judges including Director of Curriculum and Instruction Helen Barnstable, English Department Chair and teacher Paul Gustafson, history teachers Chase du Pont 2002 and Maeve Vitale, and Learning Support Coordinator Lisa Motter.

The winners of the Declamation Project were Nana Winston-Ashie with her speech on black jails and the detention of Chinese citizens; Maryam Bilal in second place with her speech on the institutionalized discrimination and forced fleeing/migration crisis of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group across Southeast Asia; and Alessandra Sticca in third place with her speech on the crisis of enforced disappearances of citizens in Sri Lanka.

“The students worked hard on their speeches and took very seriously the messages contained within them,” said Mr. Sokoloff. “As a community, we hope students take lessons from each of these speeches as many resonate deeply, and their calls to action should not ring empty as supporting these causes is paramount.”

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