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Apex High School students are working with fellow students in China to raise awareness of famine and genocide in Africa.
After taking a class on the Holocaust and genocide last year, Apex High students Matt Bigelow and Collin Gibbons became interested in genocide and other largely unpublicized problems in Africa today.
"The U.N. calls what is happening in the Horn of Africa 'the worst humanitarian crisis today,' " Gibbons said. "But somehow, it has fallen off the radar. The media doesn't want to keep the stories in the spotlight. Even if we just inspire a few people, it will help."
When the students began the campaign last year, they teamed up with Apex High's STAND (Students Taking Action Now Darfur) project and hosted a forum on genocide with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.
This year, Caroline Lewis, another Apex High student, joined Bigelow and Gibbons to work on a DECA project to expand awareness of international atrocities.
DECA, a high school club focused on business and marketing, prepares students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Students must be taking a marketing-related class to participate.
For their project, the three students wanted to expand the reach of their campaign and team up with students internationally. Apex High's sister school in China, the Jiangsu Yancheng School, provided that opportunity.
"Connection with the school had been spotty until we began this project," said Lewis. "We have maintained consistent contact with our student counterparts. We really liked the idea of two totally different nations working together to help other countries in need."
Bigelow said he was pleasantly surprised by the students' response. "I think the American impression is that communist China doesn't get involved. But we have found out that the students are caring and genuine. It has been a great partnership that is helping spread awareness."
The U.S. and Chinese students communicate over the Internet, and both schools have conducted fundraisers.
"We are trying to get an event together where we can web chat with the Chinese students in front of a forum," said Bigelow.
DECA sponsor and teacher Greg Murphy said the interaction has inspired the students.
"It's surprising to see how excited they get about the responses from the students in China," he said. "Our media specialist traveled to China, and some of the students sent gifts back. It meant a lot."
Murphy said the 150-member DECA club works on a variety of projects, including ones that support the V Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and teach economic literacy to middle school students.
"The students wish they could do more, because they can't understand how something like genocide could be happening," said Murphy.
"Learning about the famine and problems in the Horn of Africa has expanded our view," said Bigelow. "There are so many things that aren't publicized that should be."