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Canyon, Valencia students advocate child rights

High school Human Rights Watch groups around Los Angeles gather to participate in raising awareness

Posted: December 8, 2009 8:56 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A Canyon High School student signs a petition during an event hosted by the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force chapters of Canyon and Valencia high schools.

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The Human Rights Watch Student Task Force chapters at Canyon and Valencia high schools have been busy celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Local students joined students across Los Angeles in celebration Nov. 16 to 20.

The CRC is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights. It defends children by establishing specific criteria pertaining to health care; education; and legal, civil, and social services.

Although the United States has long prided itself as a champion of children’s rights, it is one of only two countries, along with Somalia, that has not ratified the Convention.

How peculiar that the major countries involved in child labor, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking, such as Indonesia and Burma, have ratified, yet the United States has failed to do so.

By neglecting to set an example as a children’s rights advocate, the U.S. is undermining its place in the international community in regard to leadership in the human rights movement.

In opposition to this lack of action regarding the CRC, the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, a youth leadership-training program, has dedicated this past week to spreading awareness about global children’s rights violations.

HRW Student Task Force chapters at eight high schools — including Valencia and Canyon — in the Los Angeles area, hosted commemoration events celebrating the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Valencia High School’s Student Task Force held a week of activities, including an assembly dedicated to education on the CRC.

Students at Canyon produced a video segment to educate their peers and hosted a lunch time activity.

All schools in the Student Task Force participated in a collective campaign, in which they gathered signatures for letters that they presented to Senator Barbara Boxer and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

These letters expressed appreciation for the politicians’ efforts to move forward with United States ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

In addition to the awareness activities, several Student Task Force members attended the Voices for Justice Human Rights Watch Annual Dinner at the Beverly Hilton on Nov. 17.

Valencia and Canyon students Audrey Abergel, Laurant Abergel, Arik Bibicoff, Dakotah Raines, Shanley Newman, Ruby Lawler, Amy Lopez, Mariah Mahotz, Kimberly Stephenson and Megan Scherich, had the opportunity to meet with the honorees, Elena Milashina from Russia and Daniel Bekele from Ethiopia.

Both activists were commemorated for their courageous and extraordinary efforts to expose human rights violations in their own countries.

Student Task Force members in the Santa Clarita Valley, and throughout Los Angeles, continue their work to spread awareness about human rights abuses, in hopes that one day their activism will no longer be needed.

Megan Scherich is a senior at Canyon High School.


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