Thursday, January 17 – Friday, January 18, 2008
Presented by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in collaboration with Civitas Associates
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Civitas Associates took the latest Pulitzer Center Global Gateway initiative to St. Louis where they engaged hundreds of students in a discussion about Liberian child soldiers with a reporter recently back from the field.
Freelance journalist Ruthie Ackerman and Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer were in St. Louis January 17th and 18th to present information on the plight of former child soldiers in Liberia and elsewhere in west Africa. They presented to students from seven high schools, among them Collinsville High School, Lindbergh, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Parkway West, Rosati-Kain, Soldan, and St. Joseph's Academy, as well as one middle school, Lift for Life Academy. To prepare for the presentations in the weeks preceding the events, students conversed with Ruthie online through hundreds of blog posts; many also watched "Amputee All Stars," the "In Focus" documentary she and photographer Andre Lambertson reported for Foreign Exchange with Daljit Dhaliwal.
The conversation was lively at all the schools. While students shared a sense of curiosity and concern about the issue, their views sharply diverged on how to help the former child soldiers and on broader questions such as U.S. policies on refugees, immigration, and when to intervene in internal conflicts overseas. A special highlight of the week was the meeting at Soldan International High School, where four students who themselves had emigrated from Liberia shared their unique perspectives.
Ruthie's dialogue with students is continuing, with further questions and comments on the Pulitzer Center's Global Gateway blog site and student discussions about ways to deepen their engagement with the challenges facing Liberia.
The growing network of students, teachers and schools in St. Louis is already preparing for the next Global Gateway, a presentation this spring that will highlight the Pulitzer Center's reporting projects on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, including at least five "In Focus" segments for Foreign Exchange.
Comments from students:
"The 'Amputee All Stars' video really makes people stop and look at the situation going on in Liberia and Sierra Leone – the fact that many of these kids have to try and survive in a society they don't really understand, and are also held back by the physical trauma of having limbs removed. Hopefully, this will help bring the kids back into society and help them overcome the memories of past atrocities."
"The most informative hour and a half of my life. It was a great idea for you to come to our school and talk about the issues over in Africa."