By Yelena Samofalova
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center honored two American teens in June for essays they wrote and work they did to inspire social change.
The 2012 Stowe Prize Student Awards, now in their second year, went to high school student Tess Domb Sadof of Amherst, Mass., and Hannah Morgan, who attends the University of Maryland.
Morgan wrote for Street Sense, a newspaper sold by Washington, D.C. area homeless people. She used her work to help the homeless and show others how it could be done.
Morgan took part in a panel discussion hosted by the Stowe Center and told about volunteering at a homeless shelter for a couple of months. Morgan learned about their lives, how they have no materials for the winter and how they don’t know where their next meal is coming from most times.
Sadof, an anti-bullying advocate, formed the School Climate Control group – which tries to improve the school’s social climate – after a classmate who seemed perfectly happy committed suicide. No one knew about the girl’s personal problems or that she was being bullied, which inspired Sadof’s anti-bullying program. It hosts meetings for all kinds of different people to talk to each other.
Most people, kids and adults, have trouble defining bullying when prompted, so another goal of the School Climate Control group and others like it is to help people correctly identify bullying, which leads to its demise.
In order to improve this gruesome part of society, kids should learn to “stand up for one another,” Sadof said, and that sometimes the person who needs the most help is the bully themselves.
In her work with the homeless, Morgan said she “was surprised how homeless people were actually people” like anyone else, trying to connect with the volunteers and others in the community. She said they were touched that she was writing about them, that others cared.
Now every time she sees someone on the street, she asks for their “story” or how they got where they are, Morgan said, and what adversities they face in their daily lives.
Morgan wants to change the mindset most people have that, if they give a homeless person a dollar or two on the streets, they’re off the hook, or they’ve helped. She says people need to get out and “do the dirty work,” like volunteering on the streets or in shelters, in order to see the real struggles faced by the homeless and see what must be done to solve it.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which includes the home of Stowe, who wrote the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, uses her work to inspire social justice and positive change. The awards are one of the many initiatives and programs the center offers.
Ameni Mathlouthi, a reporter at Youth Journalism International, contributed to this story.