QJHS students taking part in forum focusing on human rights

Garrett Gadecke works on a poster related to human rights alongside his classmates at Quincy Junior High School Wednesday. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Apr. 10, 2014 9:17 am Updated: Apr. 24, 2014 10:14 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Eight ninth-graders from Quincy Junior High School will broaden their views about human rights and international relations by participating in the Capitol Forum on America's Future.

The forum -- a program of the Illinois Humanities Council -- is taking place Thursday at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University in Normal. QJHS is one of 13 Illinois schools taking part.

For the past year, students at the schools have been studying human rights and global relations. They came together to share what they learned and heard from experts in the field.

The Quincy participants are members of Lisa Goughnour's ninth-grade U.S. History class, a pre-advanced placement course. Goughnour said the eight students were going to "debate and deliberate issues that are current world problems, like children's rights and international justice."

Students spent time on their own preparing for the forum.

"This is going to be a good leadership opportunity for them," Goughnour said.

Dayanara Abernathy, a 15-year-old freshman, is among the QJHS students going to the Capitol Forum. She said the event would be a good learning experience.

"I'm really hoping to get to know other students and be able to deliberate better and learn more about human rights and how we use them across the world," she said. "It's going to make me more informed about what's going on internationally."

Luke Engelmeyer, also a 15-year-old freshman, said taking part in the forum will be "a great opportunity." He said most of the other schools will be sending sophomores, juniors and seniors.

"To experience this in a more mature setting is going to be challenging and a lot of fun, hopefully," Engelmeyer said. "I really hope to be able to better my deliberating skills and learn more about human rights and how they really affect the world and how they affect everyday life."

Engelmeyer said he has learned a lot about human rights while studying international justice during the past year.

"It's been really shocking to hear certain statistics about abuse (of human rights around the world)," Engelmeyer said. "There are 20 million slaves still on the face of this Earth, which is astonishing. Human rights are still abused so much to this day."

Goughnour said the United Nations has identified 30 basic human rights, such as the contentions that all people are born free and equal; have a right to life; and have the right to move about, think and express themselves freely.

As part of their study of human rights, students in Goughnour's class have been making posters and putting together a Powerpoint presentation that will be shown to other QJHS students to focus more attention on the importance of human rights.

"This has been kind of an eye-opener for them," Goughnour said.