After having their passports confiscated, launching missile attacks in enemy territory and being judged by a war tribunal—all in one afternoon—local So Cal teens from North High School and El Segundo High School started to look at war and conflict in a completely different way. Through a partnership with the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, local SoCal teens participated in the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Action Campaign, an initiative that inspired students to think of creative and interactive ways to educate peers about international rules of war, and then implement their proposals at local schools and communities.
With a national recognition from the American Red Cross in hand, and 10 months of hard work wrapped up, they are now on their way to Washington, D.C. North High School’s IHL Action Campaign team was selected as one of the best campaigns nationally, and as a result will be recognized on June 12-14 at the National IHL Youth Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. “The Geneva Conventions are the heart of the International Red Cross movement,” explained Margaret Arbini-Madonna, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Serving Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South Bay. “International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is critical to the enforcement of the Conventions in order to preserve humanity in the worst circumstances. North High School’s Cross the Border Campaign is inspirational, embodying IHL principles and values. We are delighted they have won the right to attend the National Youth Symposium in Washington DC.”
To celebrate, local American Red Cross of Greater Long Beach hosted a banquet to recognize their hard work. Participants enjoyed an inspiring evening, re-tracing their steps, and sharing their story with Red Cross staff and volunteers, as well as being awarded a recognition from the American Red Cross of Greater Long Beach. This year’s IHL Action Campaign focused on the topics of gender and refugees, and local students joined their counterparts across the country in creating projects that showcased how those around the world can maintain human dignity in times of conflict—a tall task for the average teen.
“These students and the 937 participants in their activities were able to appreciate their circumstances on a new level after hearing about the struggles of refugees in the world today,” said Hetal Shah, IHL Action Campaign Program Coordinator for the Los Angeles Region. “I am so proud of the Team Leaders and Members as they developed such an incredibly meaningful project to educate others about IHL.”
Young Red Cross leaders such as Melanie Nomiya and Tommy Tran, students at North High School, were selected, trained and supported by the Los Angeles Region as IHL Action Campaign Team Leaders. Afterwards, they spent the past school year educating their peers about IHL rules, principles and values, with Team Members such as Sunny Sun, Akane Okumura, Rachel Lee, Sera Shimooka, Helen Chung, Brandon Takeuchi, and Andrea Ace.
Nomiya and Tran were also the leads in planning the group’s campaign. They, along with their Team Members, facilitated hands-on, interactive sessions that had the teens playing the roles of captor and captive, leader and civilian and ultimately being “tried” for their actions at a tribunal. After discussing their experiences, these determined learners put their creativity to the test and, in the process, educated others on what they had learned through their campaigns.
Activities included sharing videos about refugees throughout the nation, interactive presentations comparing the lives of refugees and high school students in SoCal, Ted Talk videos including one about a North Korean refugee’s struggles, comprehensive debriefings, and supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross purchasing uniquely designed bracelets to support refugee relief.
This is the first year that North High School has participated in this program. Other local participants included the San Gabriel / Pomona Valley (SGPV) Team, who received an Honorable Mention Award, the California Academy of Math and Science (CAMS) and the Bold Eagles (Mayfair High School).