Inspired in middle school, a student gives back

Student activist Atiya Raja chats with Superintendent Dr. Ira E. Outstatcher

Student activist Atiya Raja chats with East Ramapo Superintendent Ira E. Outstatcher

Atiya Raja first heard about “Rachel’s Challenge” as a student at Chestnut Ridge Middle School in Spring Valley, and it changed her world view.

The way Atiya explained it last week while visiting her former middle school teacher Diane Gonzalez at Chestnut Ridge, “I had never thought about the world outside of me. The first time I saw ‘Rachel’s Challenge’ I was in tears. There’s so much more to life than just going to school. I realized I wanted to help.”

That awareness was sparked by an eponymous program launched in memory of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine shooting, that challenges students to improve the world, saying: “You just may start a chain reaction.”

And that’s exactly what has happened in Atiya’s case.

Now a high school senior, she has dedicated herself to activities that make a difference, helping others through the Rockland Family Shelter’s SAEDA program for “Student Activists Ending Dating Abuses;” serving as a member of Student Council; and serving as her high school’s Key Club president for four years running.

Key Club has supported a wide range of philanthropic activities, raising thousands for March of Dimes and other charities.

“We were able to make a difference in opposing sexism and racism,” Atiya says.

Her activism came full circle when she returned to the middle school from whence inspiration came to take part in the webinar about “Speak Truth to Power,” a human rights project and curriculum focusing on those who defend against injustice worldwide.

Gonzalez, who was key in making the webinar happen, said: “As teachers we often don’t know what ignites a spark in a student. It was great to hear from Atiya what made a difference for her.”

2 Responses to “Inspired in middle school, a student gives back”

  1. Diane Gonzalez December 16, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I want to thank you for coming back, participating in this webcast, and sharing your thoughts about what inspired you in middle school. It makes me happy to know that you have found your passion in life. You will do great things in the future. I know this because you were already making an impact when you were in middle school!

    Don’t let anyone slow you down!

    Ms. Gonzalez

    When you run into the nay sayers, remember these words…
    “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” – Chinese Proverb

  2. Atiya Raja December 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Ms. Gonzalez,
    I want to thank you for giving me a head start. If you hadn’t inspired me I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. You’ve made a difference by encouraging myself and others to make a difference. After working with you I knew what I wanted to do in high school, which has led me to decide what I want to do with my future. So thank you for helping me plan my future.

    Ps. I will never let anyone show me down! 🙂

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