Students and teachers reflect on Just World

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Students and teachers reflect on Just World

Junior Oumaima Kaabi and senior Mihyun Lee sign people in.

Junior Oumaima Kaabi and senior Mihyun Lee sign people in.

A.J. McCafferty

Junior Oumaima Kaabi and senior Mihyun Lee sign people in.

A.J. McCafferty

A.J. McCafferty

Junior Oumaima Kaabi and senior Mihyun Lee sign people in.

Marwa Abdelaziz, News Editor

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Hundreds of different people from all over the Northern Virginia community gathered in the AHS cafeteria on Feb. 24 for the seventh annual Just World Festival, which began at 2:30 p.m. There were exhibits to view, workshops to participate in and lots of international food to be eaten. At about 4:00 p.m., a keynote address was made by Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist and owner of popular restaurant chain “Busboys and Poets.”

The exhibitors were mainly composed of students and other locals who wanted to raise awareness for their cause or to showcase their own cultures or talents. Whether the theme was environmental, medical, social or cultural, each exhibit attracted more than a few guests.

“All these exhibitions were pretty diverse and interesting,” senior Nabil Aklil said. Aklil created the Just World video shown on the morning announcements on Feb. 24.

Various clubs from AHS, such as the Gay Straight Alliance, the Feminist Club, Green Atoms, Science National Honor Society and the Muslim Student Association set up booths featuring brochures, flyers and even snacks. Other groups and individual students set up booths unaffiliated with any official club just to spread their message.

“My favorite was the Speak Truth to Power exhibit,” Aklil said. “It was mainly about those who speak out for human rights.”

The workshops were of similar nature to the exhibits, but were limited in number to three sessions of four or five workshops each. They were also much more in-depth, lasting about 45 minutes per session.

While some workshops featured multicultural dance lessons like Zumba, most of them focused on the big problems of the world.

“Getting kids to go to the academic content oriented workshops was a little more challenging,” Just World sponsor Catherine Mounteer said. “But the Occupy DC movement workshop [which began at 4:30 p.m. and extended until well after 6:30 p.m.] was still sitting in the hallway.”

Many students agree that although the non-academic workshops may appear more entertaining, they still enjoyed the academic classes.

“I learned a lot more about the Arab Spring [at the workshop]” Aklil said. There were numerous workshops based on the Middle-East such as “The Arab Revolutions: One Year Later,” “Raqs Sharqi: Middle Eastern Dance” and “A Journalist Speaks on the Role of the Media.” The last one was presented by Egyptian-American foreign correspondent Nancy Youssef, who also offered aspiring student journalists opportunities for internships.

Other workshops included presentations on the environment, human rights and the economy. A few of these workshops were even presented by members of the AHS student body. Seniors Kunny Kou and Annette Janwatin held a workshop called “Modern Day Slavery” based off of a presentation for their Theory of Knowledge class.

“[John] Hawes was a great help,” Mounteer said. “He pushed his IB Diploma Candidates to participate.”

Other student presenters included senior Leo Leksang, and members from the STAND Club and the Hispanic Leadership Club. “We have a great diverse student body so it was great to have everyone get involved,” Mounteer said.

Just World President Daniel Park hired food vendors from IndAroma, Breeze Cafe and Food Corner Kabob House to sell international food at the festival. This only added to the already diverse atmosphere of the event.

While the event was generally successful, it led to new ideas already being introduced for next year’s festival. “One thing I’d like to do next year is maybe have a thematic focus,” Mounteer said. “Part of what we want this to be about is getting kids to think about their role in the world and to take a more active role in making this world a more just and peaceful place.”

The only drawback of the idea of a thematic Just World would be that it may limit the variety of presenters at the festival. Other than that, “It was mind-blowing,” Aklil said. “It promotes that everyone should all come together and help change the world in their own way.”

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