Founder, Words Into Deeds
NY Teacher and CTLE Certified
For two decades as a classroom teacher my programs engaged upstate New York students in local and global humanitarian informed action projects. Since 2015 I have I have developed outreach workshops and Empowering Youth Voices programs that bring interactive classroom methods and resources to teachers, youth leaders, or directly to students with the goals of building critical thinking skills, developing as global citizens, and becoming informed, engaged advocates supporting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
ABOUT WORDS INTO DEEDS
Words Into Deeds brings cutting edge methods and resources designed to promote greater youth awareness of and engagement in local and global human rights issues, helping 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, I’ve worked with teachers and students in Europe, Africa and the USA and from all subject disciplines in grades K through 12 and college programs. Together, we 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.
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH EMPOWERMENT PROJECTS
Following the on-site professional development I presented at the UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu, Uganda in November, 2019 (see full description under Current Projects), teachers and school administrators identified as their top priorities and needs: training and access to computers, and support for student projects. Working with Friends of UNIFAT and Ithaca Rotary, funds were raised to renovate and fully equip a Digital Learning Center, and Words Into Deeds established a program of mini-grants to support student projects.
Access to the internet and skills in the use of electronic media are not yet available to most teachers and students at the UNIFAT Primary School, and this shortfall was a major need identified at the November, 2019 workshops. Words Into Deeds, in partnership with Friends of UNIFAT, raised over $5000 in private donations and obtained a matching Rotary International Grant to renovate and furnish a vacant room to serve as a computer center, and hire an IT education specialist. Working with teachers, a grade-by-grade set of curricular goals has been established, and is being implemented as classes have resumed.
Words Into Deeds established a grants program whereby teachers could apply for financial assistance to set-up student outreach projects. The first project drew upon teachers’ skills at traditional bead-making crafts. This taught students how to make beads from paper and then assemble them into jewelry and purses. The items would be sold both within the Gulu community and in the USA, in some cases aligned with in-school outreach projects. All proceeds are sent to the UNIFAT School scholarship fund. From the first two sets of items produced, nearly $900 has been raised.
Partnership with the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society
Founded in 1997, this cooperative in Gulu, Uganda supports individuals, mostly women, who are unable to work or are ostracized due to having HIV/AIDS or other chronic diseases, loss of families, and other issues that make them vulnerable https://www.facebook.com/wawotokacel/. At the co-op center they learn a wide array of traditional and contemporary craft skills.
A mini-grant was awarded to establish an on-campus vegetable garden. Students explored possible sites, consulted experts, cleared the land, and planted cowpea seeds. They later harvested their crop and prepared the leaf cuttings for school lunches with part of the crop also sold to local green-grocery markets.
What we purchase and use are often based on wants more than needs, and habits more that enlightened choices. The same apply to how we discard used items. Sustainable Development Goal #12, Responsible Consumption and Production, challenges us to think more about our purchasing and discarding practices, emphasizing ways to minimize harmful impacts on the environment. Partnering with Finger Lakes ReUse stores, and supported by an Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant from the NY DEC, I am working with teachers and youth in schools and after-school programs to raise their awareness of where the items we buy come from, the sources of materials in them, the ways to prolong the usefulness of items for others, and the impact that our personal decisions and actions have on the environment.
RECENT WORKSHOPS and PROGRAMS
Over 5000 adults and youth from 136 countries met in Salt Lake City from August 26-28, 2019 to address issues and develop action targets related to Sustainable Development Goal #11: Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities, with particular emphasis on how climate change is already and will increasingly impact all communities.
Gertrude was invited by the UN Program Coordinator to work in advance with youth leaders who were responsible for planning on-site activities, and to assist them and other delegates during the conference. Advance planning included the drafting of a Youth Climate Compact, which served as a template for conference discussions and a prelude to final report. www.un.org/csc2019
In this young democracy, there is heightened awareness of the need to teach youth the skills they will need to be empowered, informed citizens. Teachers and students participated in a week of workshops in Tbilisi, Georgia that combined the study of key human rights documents and Sustainable Development Goals, with pedagogical strategies (for teachers) and practical exercises, including modeling informed action plans around the theme: understanding and protecting the rights of people living with disabilities.
Prof. John Weiss of the Department of History at Cornell University invited me to co-teach History 2163, engaging students in discussions of UN declarations that promote and guarantee human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. Support for this was provided by a grant from the Polenberg fund.
Organized by the Cornell International Studies Summer Institute, this two-day workshop held at Syracuse University provided 30 New York teachers with information and resources about disruptions and challenges faced by refugees, both globally and in Central NY. Participants were provided models for developing informed action projects, then provided individual guidance to help them design programs applicable to their classrooms and communities.
WORKSHOPS and PROGRAMS
In his book, The Nature of Prejudice, Gordon W. Allport uses the metaphor of a ladder to describe how “little acts,” which often go unnoticed, can lead to more serious and disruptive individual and collective behaviors. This framework describes, in ascending order,...
Fostering student awareness of social, economic, and political problems can be overwhelming, and facilitating student informed action plans often seems out of reach in an already over-crowded schedule. However, early and reinforced engagement in research about...
Starting with examples from the book Human Rights in Children’s Literature by Jonathon Todres and Sarah Higinbotham, this workshop explores the often subtle verbal and pictorial biases – both positive and negative – found in classical and contemporary children’s...
Our society has too many low-wage earners who are especially vulnerable to changes in work opportunities and social services. Most do not see the “American Dream” of upward advancement as achievable. In this book, authors Katheryn J. Edin and Luke Shaefer profile...
The international SDGs are designed to guide global efforts to ensure better, healthier lives, with an emphasis of protecting our environmental resources. For teachers, an overview is followed by breakout sessions during which teachers will select those goals that are...
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the standard for human rights discourse and policies that all governments agreed to abide by. Others, such as U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child extended these in greater...
*available for teachers or students