By Melanie Graham
The Social Injustice Project affords students the chance to articulate concerns and take action against an unjust social issue of their choice. The assignment involves composing an academic paper of 1200-1500 words, creating a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the issues, and proposing five plans of action against the injustice, executing one of them. Many times, students will be so inspired by their research and the passion that ensues, they will complete all five actions. I have taught this project for over five years and am constantly amazed by the work done by students who choose to search inside themselves and trauma of their own lives for inspiration. I emphasize that our classroom is a safe place to speak about life experiences and have had students share the pain of intensely personal trauma such as eating disorders, drug addiction, rape, and domestic violence. Ashley Martinez revealed her own childhood sexual abuse, sharing the effect her abuser had on her life and the life of a five year old relative. Her PSA , ‘A Stolen Fairytale,’ shines with professionalism and artistry. The power of this video lies in its simplicity – childhood vulnerability is represented by a fairy tale motif of castles and a smiling princess, while smears of black paint convey the obliterating mental and physical darkness of sexual abuse. Ashley’s ability to translate her own trauma into a format that can be understood and appreciated by everyone is a sign of the wisdom she has gained from her own bravery. The success of her testimony and project embody what power lies in teaching college students that they need not be wooed by apathy or depressed by injustices, but instead, empowered and invigorated to change them. Upon completing this project, they leave the classroom knowing the world, in all its vastness, can be transformed by one person, and that person is them.