|Students at the Annual AIDS Walk Photo by M Barrett Miller|
I like to concentrate on kids supporting the event, as their involvement will help educate and curtail the spread of the disease in the future.
Each year the most visible kids are wearing very cool ASPEN sweatshirts. This year I was able to talk with a couple of kids, and introduce myself to their teacher, Barbara Velatequi.
During our quick conversation we agreed to exchange emails. My hope was to visit with her, and her students, at the school so I could get a better idea of her program and why these kids are so enthusiastic and dedicated.
I also wanted to know why Ms. Velatequi had dedicated the last nineteen years to educating kids about HIV/AIDS, STI’s and behaviors that might put them at risk.
I felt confidant that the kids I had talked with at the AIDS Walk were not treated in a similar fashion.
A few days before the visit I received a number of answers to my questions to Ms. Velatequi on why she had taken the risk, 19 years ago, to introduce a mature curriculum in the face of traditional administrative and parental objections. She had accepted the state mandate to teach about HIV/AIDS though little did anyone realize how well she was going to rock the status quo with her kids-
Almost immediately a number of students noticed that the fluid in their cups took on a light pink color. (A chemical had been added to a statistically accurate amount of cups)
They were the infected ones!
The “healthy” students sat down with a sigh of relief.
The girls walked their fellow students through the process of determining who was the source of the infection.
As you can imagine there was some lighthearted banter as reality focused in on one student who started the infectious ball rolling.
A great demonstration!
This is what I wanted to see!
They did a better delivery of information than I have done in 23 years of presentations.
Better than I ever did in my college classroom!
Their use of posters, slides, poignant questions directed to students, humor, demonstrations, acceptance of choices, abstinence as a valid choice, compare and contrast, definitions, on board pre-written statements of challenges & solutions, walking around the room, recognizing unstated questions, statistics, sources, resources is a model for all of us given the opportunity to share knowledge with students.
I have seen embarrassment in student’s eyes when adults present touchy information to a class. I didn’t see one kid react that way during this presentation.
I wished they had been conducting the “lesson” in every classroom I’ve ever walked into-
At the end of the presentation I shared with Ms. Velatequi, and the two girls, exactly what I have written above about their presentation.
I told them they should take their presentation on the road!
They seemed pleased.
Ms. Velatequi told me the girls had practiced for hours and hours and hours.
Under her tutelage these kids knocked it out of the park!
Last March, ASPEN hosted 10 teens from Serbia to share education curricula, strategies, and pizza. Face book, email, and skyping have allowed this collaboration to continue.
ASPEN is now needed, respected, and cherished by Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Dunschee House, both highly respected organizations in Seattle.
ASPEN students have served as keynote speakers and entertainers at the Seattle AIDS Walk as well as being phenomenal fundraisers.
Last year twenty-six ASPEN students raised over $45,000 for Lifelong AIDS Alliance, more money than any other team in the walk, including Microsoft, Starbucks, and every other corporate sponsor.
The team has also been entrusted with a food delivery route for Chicken Soup Brigade; each week two of the students pick up meals for clients of Lifelong AIDS Alliance. These deliveries ensure that their clients will be well fed for the week.”