No one is born being a citizen. You have to be taught what it means. Sonia Sotomayor
Do you want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

Thomas Jefferson

Workshop introducing the Sustainable Development Goals to Ugandan teachers

Ithaca, NY students and community leaders invited to present Youth Voices on Substance Abuse at the United Nations

New York students gain cross-cultural awareness as part of the International Romani Youth Art Program

Teachers’ workshop in the Republic of Georgia helps them incorporate tolerance for diversity and empathy into the curriculum

Students at UNIFAT Elementary School in Gulu, Uganda making beads for jewelry to raise money for scholarships.

Digital Learning Center at UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu, Uganda



Words Into Deeds is an educational team that provides schools and youth organizations with cutting edge methods and resources designed to promote greater youth awareness of and engagement in local and global human rights issues, and thereby help them develop skills and confidence as informed, empowered, active citizens.

Through the use of workshops, seminars, individual consulting, access to global platforms, and classroom activities, we work with teachers and students in Europe, Africa, Asia and the USA, in grades K through 12, and in university programs. Our programs help teachers develop strategies for motivating and challenging students of diverse backgrounds and career aspirations to become citizen proponents for human rights in their daily lives in schools, neighborhoods and globally. We provide financial support and grants that provide educational resources and scholarships that enable youth to discover and follow pathways to better futures. 

Words Into Deeds is a 501(c)3 not for profit corporation registered in New York State, USA.


Founder and Executive Director, Words Into Deeds

As a classroom teacher for two decades, and since 2014 working independently, my programs help teachers and students incorporate informed action projects based on principles of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals into their curricula and daily lives. Working with global partners and the Words Into Deeds team, we tailor Empowering Youth Voices programs to meet both programatic and resource needs of each organization. We help them build critical thinking skills, form networks with peers and experts, and then design and implement outreach service projects that provide direct benefits to others, thereby help them develop as global citizens.

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 Young people see and hear about conflicts, health crises, and disasters both within and outside of their immediate environment, UDHR Logobut all too often the human suffering associated with these is distant, impersonal, and seems to apply only to others. Their information and perceptions are often riddled with generalizations, stereotypes, and biases, and many have limited contacts with peers from diverse backgrounds.

Words Into Deeds is committed to helping youth develop their full potential as informed, engaged, effective citizens in their schools, communities, and globally, and instilling in them skills necessary to become agents of positive change based on understanding the principles of Human Rights. Our programs require students to design and implement interdisciplinary outreach projects that draw upon their creativity and energy and make a positive difference in the lives of others. By developing these habits and rewarding their efforts, we broaden each student’s perspectives, help them develop empathy for others, and prepare them for active, informed engagement with society as adults.


Most programs begin with discussions and workshops for teachers and administrators. These prepare them to introduce Words Into Deeds projects into their classrooms and school-wide curricula.

WORDS introduces principles of Human Rights and Democracy through study of documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in formats suitable for all grade levels and countries. Through mentored discussions and age-appropriate resources, participants relate these to current or recent historical events they have heard or read about, and come to appreciate both the importance and fragility of these guarantees in contemporary society. Interactive workshops introduce the Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a framework to help them identify and focus on a specific issue or problem.

INTO engages students in researching what is known about the problem they’ve chosen, using age-appropriate resources and student-engaging discussions. This typically begins with examination of data provided by teachers or available from web-based or library sources. The process is enriched by direct contacts with peers, experts, artists, activists, and service providers who help students explore multiple points of views regarding the causes and steps being taken to mitigate the problems. On-line meetings with peers at other schools and countries expand students’ awareness and understanding of diversity and global inequalities, thereby “putting a human face” on issues that often seem very abstract, distant, and controversial.  During these discussions, students learn to identify biases in themselves and often in their sources of information, and to question the authenticity and validity of information they have acquired.

Mayor Svante Myrick

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick meets with Youth Voices on Substance Abuse participants to raise their awareness of how this affects communities and, from his personal experiences, families.

DEEDS means that students follow their ideas with actions. Simply put: identify a problem and do something about it that helps others. This requires building partnerships with peers and community members, both locally and globally, that enable them to design and implement targeted, actionable service projects that meet the needs of and respect the sensitivities of community members. Often, students studying different subjects or from different grades, and even attending other schools in their district or globally, will establish collaborative teams to share and better achieve their outreach objectives.

School-wide annual Walk for Water raised over $10,000 to promote gender equity by freeing girls from the necessity of walking long distances to fetch water for their families. Shown are former Sudanese refugees who helped students understand what living with water insecurity means.

Participants in a Youth Voices of Domestic Abuse project they designed meet with international peers at a youth leadership conference held annually at the UN.

Celebrating accomplishments is a proven important component of developing sustained citizenship skills among youth and helping them gain confidence in their abilities to communicate. These can be scheduled at class or school events, awards ceremonies, or in conjunction with community activities.

4H Fashion Show

Local 4-H youth gain understanding about Sustainability and Responsible Consumption. Items they selected at the Ithaca ReUse Center were modeled at their community fashion show, and for each the source of materials and importance of re-using instead of discarding in the trash was described.

Gertrude in EcuadorGertrude Noden, Founder and Executive Director

For nearly 20 years, Gertrude taught English Literacy and developed a school-wide Distance Learning program, which introduced students to principles of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals and became the framework for Words Into Deeds. Although half the school’s students are from poverty-level families, over the years their outreach projects raised over $40,000 and provided tons of food and other supplies for local and international organizations. Her program received numerous state and national awards, including from the Robert Kennedy Center for Social Justice and Human Rights. Since retiring, she has broadened her outreach through local and international workshops and support for teachers and student-oriented programs.

Breana Kopp, Co-Chair 

Breana Copp, Co-Chair

Breana holds a Master of Art Education from Nazareth College of Rochester and for close to twenty years has been an art educator at South Seneca Schools. She teamed with Gertrude in organizing the school’s Distance Learning program, and in 2011 received a New York State Senate Resolution Honor for her commitment to global education. Breana is a staunch advocate for student-led activism, cultural understanding, and incorporating arts into students’ outreach projects to help them expand their understanding of global cultures.


Ayuen Ajok

Ayuen Ajok

Ayuen was one of the estimated 20,000 young boys who fled violence that plagued southern Sudan in the 1980-90s, and was among the survivors who became known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Supported by the United Nations, he was brought from a refugee camp in northern Kenya to Philadelphia. Ayuen went on to earn a BA in Business Administration from Temple University, MPA in Economic and Financial Policy from Cornell University, MA in International Peace & Conflict Resolution from Arcadia University, and Graduate Certification in Business Analytics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has held positions as Research and Economic Analyst at the World Bank, which includes developing macroeconomic indicators of productivity growth in South Sudan. Ayuen is a Co-Founder of Sawa Sawa Network, which provides broadcasts, resources and outlets for journalists, artists, and youth in South Sudan.


Denis OkemaDenis Okema

Denis Okema was born in Uganda and, at the age of 9, was abducted by terrorists and forced to work as a child soldier. He escaped and was rescued by Abitimo Odongkara, who enrolled him as one of the first students at the UNIFAT School. He subsequently finished high school and then earned a B.A from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, M.S. at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, and Certification in Diversity and Inclusion at Cornell University. He has worked as program developer and educator with private and governmental agencies in Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and the D.R.C. as well as the U.S., and is a frequently invited speaker presenting topics such as the Effects of War on Children, Pathways to Peace and Reconciliation, and Bringing Inclusion to the Workplace.


Nina Redmond

Nina Redmond

Nina Redmond brings over three decades of experience as an educator at Middle-High school levels where she helped youth develop understandings about diversity, equality and inclusion through her Global and U.S. History courses and one-on-one mentoring. She also serves as a Special Education Teacher and Program Director, and is Co-President of the school’s Teachers’ Association. Nina earned a B.A. at Lesley University and an M.A. in Literacy Education at SUNY Cortland. She brings skills and passion for helping youth develop essential 21st century skills and is enthusiastic about being a part of Words Into Deeds youth empowerment projects.


Drew Noden, Secretary - Treasurer

Drew Noden, Secretary – Treasurer

Drew Noden, PhD, taught at University of Massachusetts and, for over 30 years, in the Veterinary College at Cornell University. He has authored two widely used textbooks and over 80 research papers and book chapters and is a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists. In 2014 Drew received the Henry Gray Scientific Achievement Award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Anatomists, and in 2018 the Outstanding Educator prize from the Society for Developmental Biology. In addition to skills as a researcher, writer, teacher, and illustrator, he brings expertise in science-based aspects of the SDGs and experience incorporating these in educational programs.