Middle school and high school students filled the Collins Arena at Brookdale Community College on May 15 for the 37th Annual We Are the Change: Our Voices Matter, The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education (Chhange) Colloquium.
Dale Daniels, executive director of Chhange, urged students to learn from each student speaker’s experience and to make a difference in their respective schools, neighborhoods and communities.
Brookdale President Dr. David Stout thanked Daniels, who is retiring, for her years of service to Chhange. He urged the students to not remain on the sidelines when witnessing injustice but to act.
The students heard from student upstanders about how to organize and to fight bias and injustice in all forms. The keynote speakers for the event were Ziad Ahmed, Brookdale alumna Brenda Codallas, Samantha Emily Baum, Christianah Akinsanmi and Rebekah Bruesehoff. Ahmed, a Yale University student, is the founder of redefy.org, an organization committed to furthering equality. Codallas, a Brookdale graduate now attending Rutgers University, is active in organizing for the rights of the Dreamers community. Baum and Akinsanmi are student leaders for March for Our Lives NJ. Bruesehott, a 12-year-old middle school student, fights for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people.
In addition to the keynote speakers, attendees also participated with Holocaust and genocide survivors, and educators in more than 30 workshops to learn more about fighting against injustice and hate crimes. All were invited to view Chhange’s 6th Annual Student Art Installation which featured New Jersey students’ artwork on current issues.
Brenda Codallos, Brookdale graduate, spoke about her experiences as a student upstander for the DREAM Act.