By Parvathi Nair '22
After noticing that many advocacy organizations tended to solely target older teenagers and adults, Notre Dame senior Catherine Tong decided to start a speech and debate course that would teach young elementary schoolers about controversial social issues and help them develop their public speaking skills at the same time. Partnering up with the Educational Planning Services, Racial Equity Team, and a children's librarian at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in the spring and fall of 2020, Catherine organized and taught an entire course for elementary students that centered around topics such as redlining, systematic discrimination and racial colorblindness. The sessions were very successful
With the help of more volunteers, Catherine is now offering another seven week session that will run this spring to ensure that this project will continue even after she graduates. This upcoming course will focus on the recent rise in hate crimes committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the history of the AAPI community. After she was asked what she hoped students would take away from this course, Catherine answered, “I hope that they will gain the empathy skills from the Social-Emotional Learning we integrated into the course so that they can analyze their own emotions and reactions to the dark realities of what they learn yet still feel empowered to speak out against injustice. I also hope that they will gain the speaking skills to have difficult conversations in the future, whether it is with friends or as a future elected student leader.” As someone who previously served as an assistant for this program, I can say that this course does a wonderful job of bringing both current events and past history to light in an approachable manner, and teaches young students about topics they would not otherwise learn about in school.