When I originally was in high school if you just think of someone that's looking for something to belong to you, that's what I was when I first started.
I originally didn't see my identity and learning as something that were synonymous.
I saw them as very separate, because that's how they were being taught to me.
So for a good portion of the beginning of my career that was missing and it definitely clicked once I took Facing History and Ourselves.
I sat right over there, right by Mr. Woods' desk.
I first came across the curriculum in 2010.
From like the first probably 20 minutes of it, I was hooked.
We start off the course looking at universe of obligation, circles of responsibility.
How do we see ourselves as changemakers?
And the way that I try to show my students that they can do it I will share personal stories with them.
For my grandmother, education was always important.
She pretty much raised me I was with her a lot before and after school.
And she was always talking to me about making sure I stay in school.
My household was not a pleasant place.
It wasn't a place of love outside of her.
In fifth grade, I was home sick.
There was a stepmother there, she was a big part of the problem.
And two of my friends, Deval and Terrence, showed up at the door to drop off my homework, and she took the stuff from them and slammed the door in their face.
And then... she she yelled, "don't you ever bring those n-words around the house again." And I knew they were, I knew they were outside that door.
And then I had to deal with that coming to school the next day.
But in fifth grade, which connects to a lot of stuff for me.
Mr. Sisk, he showed us Roots, and I think for me, that started some of the mechanism in my brain to understand the need to teach the truth when it came to history.
He taught us about thinking about others.
You have to acknowledge what happened prior, but also what's going on in that given moment.
If you don't give people that space to do that, you're never going to reconcile with the past.
So I think something that's really good about this class in Facing History is that it really gives students that outlet that they need to mold themselves into actively doing something.
The way that Mr. Woods seeks a light in students is something that's so important.
Once we started to look at some oral histories and original writings of different Holocaust survivors, I was really able to see myself in those stories.
And you could even go back to looking at the Rwandan genocide and getting to see a systematic taking over of a country.
Really seeing that in a complex way, made me really grapple with how I wanted to see myself as a person.
Whatever role that you take on, I want you to become active to really try to make a change.
Because no matter what we learn in here, we got to take it out with us.
And we have to have those hard conversations that we're talking about.
No matter what part of the curriculum you look at, whether it's the Holocaust and Human Behavior, Reconstruction, the atrocities that took place in Nanjing.
Everything is about change because everybody has that opportunity to make those changes.
I recall going to Kean University for a tour and during that tour, an oral history presentation about the Holocaust.
And that was the first time I saw what I was doing at high school in a college setting.
After the death of George Floyd I was one of the founding members of the Voting Squad.
We created a presentation together and we thought about how this would work.
We emailed different professors.
We asked just different people everywhere if they could make sure that they were talking about voting in their classrooms.
I think the key takeaway was that it was someone that was of similar age talking about the importance of voting.
And through that initiative, we ended up winning most engaged campus.
People always want to give me credit for student successes, and I feel uncomfortable sometimes with that because yes, I help, but they were already excelling and maybe just needed a little nudge there.
So for me, I'm super, super proud of Chevon.
I mean, hearing and the stuff about the voting and just being a real active person in her school community, it just makes me really, really proud.
Mr. Woods was very intense from the get go when I entered his class, but it was in a way that felt welcoming and warm.
We worked together in our course to understand each other and have these difficult conversations because that's really the only way that you can learn and you can really hope to change what's going on.
If you don't understand each other, you can't understand the history you're learning.
Being able to have those moments that Facing History and Ourselves gives to look at the other and then look within yourself, is so important.