Message in ‘Girl Rising’ surprises Metea students

AURORA — “Girl Rising” has inspired audiences in packed movie theaters, corporate boardrooms and political arenas around the world. On Thursday, it inspired students at Metea Valley High School who were treated to a private schoolwide screening without leaving their classrooms.

“It is vital that today’s young people have experiences that help them develop their sense of global citizenship,” said English teacher Rebecca Walker. “Most of us are happiest when we have a sense of purpose and feel we are contributing to a better world; opportunities like (the) “Girl Rising” screening help students realize that it’s never too early to start creating the world they want to live in.”

“Girl Rising,” a film by Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, was released in March 2013. The almost two-hour documentary takes viewers around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit of nine girls, and showcases how the power of education can change the world.

“It was a bit of an eye-opener,” said Deston LaRue, 18. “It’s kind of shocking to see how people treat women in other countries. It’s ridiculous. You watch the film and you think, is this how I would want to be treated? “

Walker and fellow teacher Casey Solgos saw the film in the fall and agreed it was something they wanted to share with their students.

“Social justice-themed films humanize individuals in faraway places by giving a voice to those who, until recently, have had little or no voice,” Solgos said. “For today’s youth, who are tomorrow’s leaders, experiences such as this provide essential reality checks that provide a proper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world; they ask us to look outside ourselves and honor the trials and triumphs of unsung heroes.”

Walker said the film speaks to the fact that for many, education is a privilege and something that people throughout the world fight to obtain.

Solgos shared the sentiment.

“I hope all students gain ownership of the truth that education is something to fight for, not something to fight against,” Solgos said. “For the Metea students who are eager to live out our (school) mission statement, I hope they are inspired and equipped to take action — locally or globally, immediately and sustainably —and begin to improve the lives of those who are oppressed.”

After the film, students were invited to attend a discussion group during their lunch period. Julie Willig, a representative from the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, was also on hand to discuss “Girl Rising” and offer opportunities for students to get involved.

“This was an opportunity for the students to reflect on what they learned and to speak up about what in the film connected to, surprised, angered and inspired them,” Solgos said. “It’s also an opportunity for students to support one another as they take ownership of our call to take action and build some accountability in those endeavors. “

Senior Allison Hunt, 18, said she had heard about “Girl Rising” and was excited about seeing it at Metea.

“I think it was inspiring,” Hunt, 18, said. “I think in America it’s really hard for kids to focus outside of ourselves. This should inspire us not only to appreciate what we have here, but to want to help others, to want to do more in our country and across borders and across oceans.”

Hunt said the on-campus screening is a testament to the Metea community.

“Having this movie here is a testament to our teachers and adults,” the teen said. “I think that we have awesome staff and mentors here that obviously care enough and want to bring awareness to us.”

And with awareness comes a call for action. Hunt said there are many things teens can do to help, even with limited resources.

“Obviously money is something that every organization needs, but I also think your time and effort will do the most,” Hunt said. “We have to advocate that people take a step out of their comfort zone.”

The event was made possible by a grant from the Metea Parent Teacher Student Association. In addition, an evening screening is scheduled at the school for community members.