UF Law students enlighten high schoolers with human rights lecture
By Jenna Box (4JM) & Whitney Smith
“As lawyers, we do much more than law… we deal with the concepts of human rights,” said Berta Esperanza Hernandez-Truyol, Levin Mabie & Levin Professor of Law, reflecting back on a spring afternoon that she says was one of the best in her three decades of teaching.
Hernandez-Truyol’s spring Human Rights & Globalization course – a three-credit, interdisciplinary course, cross-listed with Women’s Studies & Latin American Studies, and the first of its kind at UF Law – offered an inside look at the complexities and interconnections of human rights issues and how to better foster access to human rights.
Throughout the semester, the seven students wrote reflection papers and presented to the class on international human rights. As the semester wound down, Hernandez-Truyol said the students decided to put together a large poster, combining each student’s presentation.
Hernandez-Truyol was so impressed with the final product that she encouraged the students to share the information to more than just the intimate class.
Dominique Lochridge-Gonzales, a joint-degree graduate student in Latin-American studies and law, suggested a local high school. She came up with the idea after speaking to an Eastside High School student she used to be babysit, and said the high schoolers had an interest in learning international rights. She thought this event would share what she and her fellow law students had learned about the necessary conditions for humans to reach their full potentials—human rights.
“The right to vote means very little if you are hungry or homeless,” Hernandez-Truyol said.
On April 18, Hernandez-Truyol and three of her students traveled to Eastside, poster in tow. Lochridge-Gonzales spoke about the right to sufficiently nutritious food for all, digging into the ways that access to food is being implemented in the United States as well as around the world, and suggested options such as changes to the U.S. food aid policy to provide access to quality food.
Bertrhude Albert, a first-year Latin-American studies graduate student, presented a section about Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the right to adequate housing. Albert, a native Haitian, introduced the students to the subhuman conditions experienced by Haitians today.
“One of the greatest violations of the human rights occurs less than 400 miles from our borders,” Albert said. Even three years after the earthquake, more than 350,000 Haitians still live in tent cities, she said.
Scott Darius (3L) discussed the human right to health, covering how the U.S. health care system impacts the lives of the uninsured.
“It was a lot of fun and I was surprised by how much the kids actually seemed to be learning and how engaged they were,” Darius said.
Lochridge-Gonzales said she would recommend Hernandez-Truyol’s class to fellow students.
“Fostering access to human rights is my passion and dream, and I believe that this class could foster an interest or similar passion in many others,” Lochridge-Gonzales said.
Hernandez-Truyol was delighted to see her students take the discussion out of the classroom.
“This was their show, and they did so well,” she said. “The (high school) students flocked to them after the presentation and asked questions and how they could help.”
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had and I’ve been teaching 30 years,” she continued. “What more do I want as a teacher than to have others share what they’ve learned?”