Teaching Genocide’s Dark Truths

By Ani Amirkhanian

Burbank Leader, CA
Nov 18 2006

This school librarian makes sure that students learn about all
genocides, those both past and present.

Librarian, Laureen Segovia, seated, with some of the students who
study genocides past and present in the John Muir Middle School
Library during their lunch time.

A quick glance at library-resource materials at John Muir Middle
School and it’s apparent that Laureen Segovia is passionate about
bringing attention to the world’s struggles.

Segovia, the school’s librarian, is on a mission to help students
learn as much as they can about genocides.

She talks to students about the historical events surrounding
the genocide of American Indians, the Holocaust and the Armenian,
Cambodian, Rwandan and Darfurian genocides.

To help them learn more, Segovia has on display books, reference
materials, videos and up-to-date information on Darfur for students
to look through each time they visit the library.

"We’re having genocides all over the world and nobody is stopping
them," Segovia said. "The kids are our future, so it’s their turn to
do something."

~U Teaching genocide’s dark truths ~U Students talk, think turkey

Her display often gets the attention of the students, she said.

Every day during lunch about 80 students fill the library to do
their homework or research projects and Segovia gets them engaged in
a discussion.

"I think they need to know the past in order to correct the present,"
Segovia said. advertisement

Segovia makes daily news printouts about the situation in Darfur and
keeps them in a binder.

Her latest printouts of news articles all deal with the neighboring
country of Chad, where displaced Sudanese civilians have taken refuge
in camps.

Students start learning about the Holocaust, which is part of the
academic curriculum, in the eighth grade, Segovia said.

Segovia is getting a head start on the spring semester by teaching
eighth-graders about the difference between genocides and wars.

Richard Esguera, 13, said he didn’t know anything about the Armenian
genocide until Segovia talked about it at the library.

"It shouldn’t be happening," Richard said. "A genocide kills people
for no reason."

Student Allen Babakhanian, who is of Armenian descent, said his
parents told him about the Armenian genocide but he didn’t know much
about the genocide in Darfur.

"Innocent people are getting killed," the 13-year-old said. "Over
400,000 people have been killed, women and children are raped and 2
million have been displaced."

But learning about the world’s genocides doesn’t just come from books
and resource materials.

Segovia is a firm believer in taking action for a cause.

On United Nations Day – Oct. 24 – she used her own cellphone to call
the White House and students spoke with administration officials who
took their call, about Darfur.

Students asked the officials to help the people in Darfur, Segovia

"I’ve been challenging them," Segovia said. "I’m saying you are
a voice, you need to stand up and say something, write letters,
make calls."

During Ramadan, Segovia took another step to make a statement about
how she felt about the atrocities in Darfur.

She decided to fast from sun-up to sun-down.

"I had never fasted without water and solids ever in my life," Segovia
said. "We have some Muslim children at this school who were fasting. I
think it was another connection with the Muslim children."

The school’s Associated Student Body also voted on starting a
letter-writing campaign.

Thanks to Segovia’s efforts, students will be writing letters about
Darfur that will be sent to the United Nations.

"Education is the key," Segovia said. "We need to recognize all
genocides for all genocides to stop."

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