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As ASCD Empower17 was wrapping up on the final day, I was lucky enough to spend an hour and a half with Zuriel Oduwole, a 14-year-old filmmaker who made her first documentary at age 9 about the revolution in Ghana. She went on to create another documentary at the age of 12, entitled A Promising Africa, that was screened on three continents.
Oduwole has found her great passion in ensuring that children around the world, especially girls, have access to quality education. In pursuit of this goal, she has met with young people around the world and with many world leaders.
During her session, she asked us to close our eyes and imagine our sister or daughter or niece or good friend getting married at the age of 12 or 13. Oduwole has traveled all over the world and worked with young people and children in so many different settings. She has no trouble imagining what it would be like for a young girl to be married, but she knew we were not as likely to have the same perspective. She was masterful at the front of the room, waiting longer than many folks would to ensure that we truly thought through what that would mean.
Oduwole also spoke about culturally responsive teaching and asked five volunteers from the audience to share their challenges when it comes to a culturally responsive curriculum. She pointed out that we are the experts when it comes to education, and she wanted to take the opportunity to learn from us. She also took questions from every single person in attendance before the end of her session.
For me, the highlight was actually something her father said. He reminded us that she is only 14 and is still a child. He said that she has a passion and she fights for it, but she also wants to ditch the beautiful clothing and head out onto the soccer field with friends. He believes that she is able to do some of the work she does because she is still a child. World leaders and organizations that might be hesitant to speak with or listen to typical advocates are willing to meet with a child. She may still be a child, but she is growing into a strong young woman. Her voice is powerful, and she is using it well.
Learn more about Zuriel Oduwole and her campaign Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up.
Jennifer Orr is a National Board–certified teacher at Lynbrook Elementary in Springfield, Virginia. She has taught elementary school for two decades at various grades in Title I schools. When she’s not at Lynbrook, she can be found on Twitter @jenorr or at www.jenorr.com.
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February 10, 2017
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