After spending just a short time with Pembroke Hill sophomore Adib Rabbani, his passion for bringing out social change in our society is strikingly clear. That passion has led him to be a leader in the Pembroke Hill upper school Social Justice Club initiative, which focuses on providing forums for student discussions and opportunities to educate others.
Adib was recently recognized for his commitment to social justice as the recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for the Greater Kansas City Region. He is one of 30 students nationwide to receive this honor. “I am very excited about the award,” he said. “Receiving this prize gives legitimacy to the work we are doing within the Social Justice Club in the upper school.”
That work includes weekly meetings with a core group of approximately eight students who gather to discuss topics related to social justice “We talk about whatever is on people’s minds,” he explained. Some of their sub themes include race relations, human dignity, the importance of education, civil courage and the oneness of humanity. “We also use this time to reflect on what is currently happening either in our school or in the country. We talk about how differences in languages, religions and cultures can cause us to be segregated, how we are all interconnected and how actions affect everyone.”
Adib attributes his interest in social justice issues to his family. “My household has taught me a lot about this. My sister, Clara, and her friends actually started the Social Justice Club in the upper school about five years ago with [upper school French teacher] Maud Croibier-Muscat serving as the sponsor.” Adib believes he and the school community can do more. “We have the resources and the abilities to affect change, and I think it is my responsibility to help other people.”
The best way to do that, Adib says, is through education and discussions, starting with his peers and with younger students. The Social Justice Club has several initiatives with this goal in mind. Prior to this year, he worked with Jodie Stallard, middle school art teacher, to create and coordinate a Social Justice Club in the middle school. With the help of two of the middle school SJC participants, Adib offered two Social Justice camps last year to over 60 children ages 8 to 10 from around the United States.
With the assistance of upper school Spanish teacher Sandra Ortega-Lydic, the PHS Social Justice Club this year began meeting every Friday night via Zoom with students from two schools in Toluca, Mexico to talk about current issues. During these hour-long meetings, students speak in Spanish for 30 minutes and then in English for the remainder of the time. On any given Friday, 20 students are participating.
“It is very interesting to learn about our diverse ideas,” Adib said. “For example, the Pembroke Hill students are concerned about race relations, and the students from Mexico are more interested in environmental issues. It is enlightening to see their perspectives and their hierarchy of importance for these issues.” He added, “We come away from the experience with more knowledge that we can then share with others.”
In addition to sessions with their counterparts in Mexico, the Social Justice Club sponsors a Social Justice Club for Middle Schoolers From Around the World. These zoom meetings occur every other Saturday. “We have middle school-aged students from Rwanda, Peru, Brazil, and the United States,” Adib explained. “We try to educate them on the same topics as we discuss in our PHS Social Justice meetings.”
As the Princeton award honoree, Adib receives a $1,000 award. In a non-COVID year, he would join the other recipients for a symposium on social justice and travel to Princeton. However, organizers still hope to have a celebration in Kansas City.