WASHINGTON—Thanks to their active involvement in the school's drug prevention program two Taconic Hills High School students earned the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital and participate in Mentor Foundation USA’s Shatter the Myths Youth Rally on January 24th.
The two teens, 16-year-old Mia Modaferri and 17-year-old Hanan Ibrahim, are active student leaders at their school via Mentor Foundation's Youth Ambassador network and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter.
Mia and Hanan toured the museums and monuments in Washington, D.C. on Monday, followed by participation in the National Shatter the Myths Youth Rally held at the House of Sweden on Tuesday.
Their trip began with a visit to the National Archives. While they said they enjoyed the permanent home of documents such as the Declaration of Independence, they were most impressed by the exhibit “Amending America”, which highlights the over 11,000 changes made to the Constitution.
They both commented how it was very powerful to see how many attempts had been made at changing the constitution when only 27 had passed and only six others got far enough to be voted upon. They also noted how many times issues important to them, such as equal rights for all people, had been brought up over and over again.
They braved waiting in the pouring rain for admission to the newly opened National Museum of African American History & Culture, which they said was a powerful experience for both teens.
”It really opened my eyes,” said Modaferri. “I knew for sure African Americans were oppressed, but not until seeing it all I understood so much more.”
Ibrahim went one step further and connected it to the “Living the Example” campaign that is an integral part of Mentor Foundation’s work.
Living the Example is taking a stand against something you believe is detrimental such as drugs or alcohol, or in the case of the museum on Monday, against slavery and discrimination. From Lincoln to MLK, people took a stand and lived their life based on those principles and set an example to follow.”
- Hanan Ibrahim
On Monday night the pair toured the monuments, including the Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials.
On Tuesday, both teens were active in the rally, helping to set up name tags for attendees and participating in all the sessions. At the end of the rally, they were brought on stage and given the opportunity to speak about the Change Projects planned for Taconic Hills High School, which aim to promote healthy living.
This is the most important time for us. We are truly setting ourselves up for the future.”
- Hanan Ibrahim
Ibrahim said she was most impressed by the students participating in a “poetry slam” and their honesty.
“They were able to transform their thoughts into poetry and share it with everyone and that was amazing,” she said.
She said she was also moved by the information presented by Dr. Ruben Baler about drugs and the brain.
“I would tell my school mates that they should join in Youth Ambassadors and Living the Example, and do research on the effects of drugs on our brains,” Ibrahim said. “I learned that now is when our brains are developing [and drugs can negatively affect that].“
Modafferi added that she was also affected by the slam poetry.
“It was really impressive how much the students could show how they felt through the slam poetry,” she said. “It had an impact on them and me.”
Modaferri said she felt the rally showed that teens matter more and that they need to make the best of their lives and “don’t abuse it and don’t take it for granted.”
Both students wanted to express their appreciation for all that Mentor Foundation USA provided and for giving them this opportunity.
Ibrahim concluded: “At the beginning of this trip, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. In the end, I had a lot of fun. This includes waiting on line for forty-five minutes in the pouring rain to listening to guest speakers and helping with name tags. I learned a lot of information in those 36 hours. I would like to thank Mentor Foundation for an incredible experience.”
Thank you to these two wonderful teens who ‘live the example’ in all they do!
Mia and Hanan's visit to Washington DC was funded by the Columbia County Health Care Consortium and Foundation for Community Health.
by Sandra Goldmeer