Until a recent school project, 15-year-old Rod Hodge had no idea what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was.
Hodge and several other students at South Shore International High School (SSIHS) participated in a six-weeklong project that brought college professors, a journalist and several other guest speakers to the school to teach the students about NATO’s historical role in the world.
So now the 15-year-old freshman not only knows that NATO is a more than six-decades-old alliance of 28 nations, through research and study he explored what he would do as an economist if France – a NATO country – were struck by a weapon of mass destruction.
The students put what they learned about NATO countries on display during a Youth Summit held at the school on May 16. In addition to local elected officials and civic leaders, including Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Sandi Jackson (7th), State Sen. Mattie Hunter and Rev. Willie T. Barrow, the event brought international leaders to the brand new school in the South Shore neighborhood. Consuls from Canada, Germany, France and Italy were in attendance.
The summit was also an opportunity for SSIHS Principal Beryl Shingles to show off her new $94 million school building. Through the efforts, in part, of a community-based planning community, SSIHS opened its doors starting this school year and currently has only freshmen.
At the youth summit, leaders talked about the importance of introducing the students to global issues, which they said often have a local impact.
“I studied in France,” Hairston said at the summit. “It changed my perception of the world.”
A principle on the planning committee also spoke of the school having an international impact on the students.
“Our goal is to help our new school build the capacity it needs to launch a robust, world class, sustainable international program for our children,” said Henry English, the planning committee president. “Our intention is to build upon the NATO event to create an ongoing dialogue with national consulates to build a cooperative relationship between students, educators and administrators among participating countries.”
Hodge made his own discovery about France, finding through the school project that the European nation was quite sophisticated and would more than likely be able to detect a dirty attack, lessening any financial impact to the country.
“It was very exciting. It was very information-filled,” he said about doing the research for the project.
He was able to tell the French consul all about it.
Jamese Kane took on the role of a scientist as she researched how an arsenic-filled bomb would impact the French. She learned what antidote she would need to treat people affected by the bomb and how long she had to get the treatment to them.
“As a scientist you have to know exactly what you’re doing because one mistake could mess everything up,” the 15-year-old said.
Like her partner in this project, Kane had never heard of NATO either.
Chicago was the first U.S. city outside of Washington, D.C. to host the NATO summit. The annual meeting of military allied countries deals with matters of world defense and security. NATO oppositionists accuse the alliance organization of being a warmonger. NATO considers itself vital to world security, even as it works to redefine itself in the new millennium.
The NATO summit ran May 20-21 at McCormick Place.
“Often times we talk about the globalization of America and the globalization of the job market. What’s happening here today with our children … is an example of that globalization,” said Ald. Jackson.
By Rhonda Gillespie