At Science Hill High School in Johnson City TN, I run Social Wise, a club dedicated to promoting conversations amongst peers about current events. We believe that knowledge and civil discussion is what will pave the road to the future. I have been involved with RFKHR for the past year with SocialWise. This summer, I got the wonderful opportunity to attend the Austin Summer Institute. I was so excited for the Austin Institute because I wanted to hear from other involved students and see what I could bring back home with me. The enthusiasm that I heard from my peers in Austin gave me so much inspiration and hope; I can’t wait to lead SocialWise into the new year!

One of my favorite parts from the Austin Summer Institute was the tour of the Blanton Art Museum. Art is a language; it helps us connect and communicate our strongest emotions and experiences. I was blown away by the specialized Human Rights focused art tour at the Blanton in Austin. The tour started off with an activity where we were asked to sit down in front of a work of art and draw the art piece without looking at what we were drawing. It was a totally new exercise for me, and it reminded me that sometimes all we need to understand or relate to something is a new perspective – a piece of wisdom that I will definitely implement in SocialWise. The Blanton had a fantastic collection of contemporary artworks as well as a strong Latino Art collection. The pieces we saw handled hard topics in a delicate way that really made the issues feel personal. Taking time to learn and reflect amongst peers at the depth and pace that we were encouraged to created deeper discussions that aren’t always available in the classroom, and I have definitely taken some teaching tips back with me.

Furthermore, the variety of strong student voices present at the Austin Summer Institute were so reassuring and inspiring. One speaker who really stood out to me was Teddy Isben, a member of the RFK Youth Advisory Board. They gave a great presentation on how to communicate student needs and organize them into an effective action. We spend so much time at school, and it’s good to have a reminder that academic education isn’t the only part of school life. Nonetheless, as students it can seem sometimes as though we should take a back seat and listen only to what is taught to us, but this group proved that collaboration between teachers and students as well as collaboration between peers is inherent to healthy learning. This is true of students teaching students as well, something that I want to show my fellow SocialWise members back at home.