Sander Cohen-Janes, New York, New York
First grade is something I will never forget. It is something near and dear to me because we changed the world in our own little way. We learned about how people around the world work, even children. We learned about unfair situations including racism.
The first lingering experience was learning that some kids in Africa are forced into child labor to make chocolate in dangerous conditions. We decided to help them by putting on a play to educate our school about this horrible practice and sell fair trade chocolate. Fair trade chocolate does not use child labor. We learned that there are kids in the world who are less fortunate than us and so we have the responsibility to use our power to help.
We also learned that people sometimes work in unfair conditions here in the United States. People work in unhealthy working conditions for poor wages. We helped by having a bake sale that raised $2,000 for an organization that helps to close sweat shops.
Sadly, one of the last relentlessly recurring memories was when we acted fast after a college student committed a hate crime against one his or her teachers only because of their race. We made an anti-racism poster about erasing hate from your heart. There was a march in protest of the student’s actions. Our poster was at the head of the march. Helping someone feel good about themselves is unforgettable. Especially when someone doesn’t want them to feel good about themselves. That is how we learned about racism in first grade.
Those were some of the greatest things I have done in elementary school. I learned things in first grade that I would have expected to learn in fifth grade! I will carry these lessons with me forever. We were small, but to the people we helped, we made a big, no, a giant difference.