NEW YORK - High school students in Long Island spent their late Wednesday morning out of the classroom and onto the public streets for a two-mile march that opened the community's ears to the humanitarian crises in Sudan.
Some 250 students from Solomon Schechter and Glen Cove high schools were empowered to raise their voices on the brutalities of genocide and modern day slavery with former Sudanese slave Simon Deng.
"It was really wonderful," said Helena Eilenberg, faculty member at Solomon Schechter. "The kids were really enthusiastic and spirited. They really felt that it counted."
Driven in inspiration by Deng and his testimony, the entire student body and faculty from Solomon Schechter, a private Jewish school, along with students from the public institution Glen Cove began their hour-long walk at 10:15 a.m. The local community was met with signs and chants from the youth whose voices rang out until they reached Glen Cove where they were joined by another 200-plus students for an assembly.
Eilenberg, teacher of Global Studies and Jewish history, said the Sudan walk helped empower the kids, enabling them to really make a difference. "They really felt that."
"When youth get involved, they have passion. It's infectious," she commented. "Our kids have learned about the Holocaust and always heard the words 'never again.' And to be able to act on the words [as] another group is being brutalized, our kids were saying, 'We won't let that happen again.'"
The student walk came ahead of the 300-mile Sudan Freedom Walk Deng will kick off mid-March in New York with participants raising awareness on Deng's planned journey to the nations capital by foot.
"We want to encourage the people of Long Island to take action so that the phrase 'Never Again' which is so often recited is not an empty one," said Eilenberg.
More religious groups have become increasingly involved in raising the Sudan issue, particularly the Darfur genocide, to the public and global platform. Elim Christian Assembly just recently hosted a speaking event with Deng in Staten Island and organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals, the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Community Relations Councils and synagogue social action committees have taken continual action on the crisis.
On Mar. 15, Deng will walk from New York to Washington, D.C., to shed light on the genocide and modern-day slavery ravaging his homeland. He is expected to reach the capital on Apr. 5.