December 15, 2006
Students at Millikan High School recently participated in a live video conference with students in Lebanon to build cultural understanding and promote peace.
The Empower Peace Foundation’s two-hour video conference brought together seniors from a philosophy class at Millikan with high school students in Beirut.
"One of the biggest lessons the students learned was that they shared so much in common, both culturally and in terms of their interests," said Nader Twal, Millikan teacher and past winner of the Milken National Educator Award, or the "Oscar Award" of teaching.
Twal and fellow teacher Matt Johnson had worked with the Millikan students to explain recent events in Lebanon, where renewed strife has raised the specter of civil war after years of relative tranquility and economic growth.
"The kids in our class are awesome," Johnson said shortly after the morning video conference. "Wow. I would describe this feeling right now as a caffeine high."
The Millikan philosophy class is part of the school’s PEACE smaller learning community (Personal success through Empowerment, Academic achievement, Conflict resolution and Ethics in action).
PEACE is one of several smaller learning communities designed to personalize education at Millikan. These smaller learning communities will be a key part of a Pathways to Higher Education plan developed by the school. The plan was approved recently by the Board of Education to increase the percentage of students completing A-G requirements needed for admission to the University of California and California State University systems.
Empower Peace, which sponsored the videoconference, is a non-profit organization committed to building bridges of respect and understanding between youth in the United States and the Arab and Muslim world.
During the video conference, students shared their thoughts and dreams for the future. They discussed popular culture, shared videos of their daily lives and made pledges for peace in their communities and in the world. Thousands of other students around the world watched the broadcast on the Internet.
"Welcome to Lebanon," began the video conference with Lebanese journalist Sarah Khoury. "What we’re doing today is so important. By engaging in conversation and sharing our thoughts, hopes and ideas, we can build bridges of understanding between cultures and most important, we can establish the foundation for new friendships."