A prevalent tragedy in today’s day and age is genocide. According to Google’s dictionary, genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. Together with National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Rho Kappa History Honor Society, Key Club, Tikkun Olam, and AHS Dance Company and Fine Arts Department, junior Mikhal Ben-Joseph works to promote genocide recognition through her organization, The Butterfly Project. The Butterfly Project “aims to raise awareness for all modern genocides and provide support to relief and advocacy efforts to victims around the world, especially children,” said Ben-Joseph.
This school year, Ben-Joseph raised $1350 for Yazda, the Yazidi Genocide Relief and Advocacy Organization, through the Butterfly Bagel Brunch. With about 80 attendees, multiple fine arts performances, such as the Patriot Dancers and flutists McKenzie Larson and Tiffany Vera, and more than 10 community sponsors and donors including Dunkin’ Donuts and Juan Valdez Cafe, the event successfully embodied the purpose of the organization.
Ben-Joseph extended her project by involving every freshman on campus in the Genocide Awareness Writing and Artwork contest. In the contest, freshmen have to create an original piece of writing or artwork and submit it in the school-wide competition. Each teacher has her own due date, but in early May, a select group of students and teachers will review all the best submissions from the classes.
The judges for the contest will be two non-freshman teaching teachers, the co-presidents of Tikkun Olam, two members of National English Honor Society and Dead Poets Society, and the president of National Art Honor Society. 10-20 winners will be chosen, have their submission approved by Mrs. Blum and Dr. Laurie and honored at the Remembrance Ceremony April 9. Winners have the opportunity to paint a ceramic butterfly which will be hung on a permanent memorial mural in the Environmental Education Center (EEC).
The project is not limited to just freshman. All other students have the opportunity to participate, so long as they turn the project in by March 9. Projects can be turned in to Mrs. Behar’s room, 7123, or her box in the guidance office. If the submission is digital media, it can be emailed to Ben-Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org. If the project has unique submission requirements, such as being fragile, email Ben-Joseph and she will make project-specific arrangements.
For those students having any type of question or problem, such as a creative roadblock or suggestions on a preliminary idea, Ben-Joseph hosted two extra help sessions. The first was Feb. 7, and the 15 students who attended watched a Holocaust documentary about Simon Chevlin, the survivor who spoke at the most recent assembly.
Ben-Joseph has a formal rubric and description of the project for students, but is looking for something more than a last-minute, done-Sunday-night-due-Monday-morning project. “I personally am going to be especially interested in submissions that show effort and creativity,” Ben-Joseph said. “I want to see [work from] a student who learned something new through this project, something that has opened their eyes or affected them emotionally; a piece by someone who is vested in the cause of genocide awareness, and thus tolerance and anti-prejudice.” At the Remembrance Ceremony in April, Ben-Joseph and those involved with the Butterfly Project will unveil the mural, honor the winners of the contest and present the donation as a check to Yazda from the Butterly Bagel Brunch.
Ben-Joseph has dedicated much time into this project. She began in January of last year, and has a strong team of helpers to help her throughout the project. “I started working on this project in January 2017, but now I am incredibly fortunate to have a lovely team of friends and fellow students working on different aspects of the project,” Ben-Joseph said. “I’m incredibly inspired by all of the enthusiasm I’ve heard from students about the project. A lot of people seem to be really getting into it and bringing their absolute best work to the table, which I respect, admire, and appreciate so much. I am so thankful for all of the support the Butterfly Project has from teachers and students. For example, Amber Bhutta and Gabriela Coutinho have been key players in putting together the writing and artwork contest. Administration, club advisers (especially my own, Mrs. Behar), and the Fine Arts Department have all been extremely helpful and deserve many thanks.”
For more information on the project, the rubric can be found here.