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Human Rights Task Force Scholarship Winner

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Jessica Frengle

This Spring, Jennessa Frengle, Sandpoint High School’s 2000-01  Associated Student Body President, won a $3,000 scholarship from the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force. The award, in part, was based on her essay in response to the following quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daylight of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truce and unconditional love will have the final word.”

     Although Frengle took the position in her essay that the world had a “constant need for hatred,” her view did not portray her success in setting up a student human rights program at Sandpoint High School.

At a youth leadership conference last summer in Wyoming, sponsored by the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity, Frengle learned about a growing national organization called ARA for Anti-Racist Action.

     “We got information [in Wyoming] on how to set up a chapter and got a few members,” she said. In November, Frengle and other high school students from the area attended a human rights conference in Boise, and “we learned how to get more members,” she said.

     ARA, while very large on the East Coast, is just getting started in the West, “particularly in the more rural parts,” said Frengle.

     When students taunted her about her independent stand and her refusal to listen to prejudicial language, Frengle used a sense of humor to deal with her adversaries. “It’s really hard to get people to realize what they’re doing,” she said. “They worked those words into their normal vocabulary without thinking about it.”

     Gradually, however, she heard other students refusing to listen to prejudicial language. “I heard other students say ‘you shouldn’t be saying that kind of stuff,’” she said. A meeting with the teachers followed from her initiative. “We got a plan,” said Frengle. “We told the teachers what sorts of things we didn’t like hearing in the classroom.” The teachers welcomed the input and agreed to help.

     Frengle was not always so outspoken. “I used to be a real shy person,” she said of her years at the middle school. “But I just got to the point where I realized somebody needed to say something.”

     Frengle, an only child, had help from her parents. “My dad and my mom always stand up for what they believe in and they always told me to, too,” she said. She also had the support of an older friend in Seattle, someone she had met during her annual attendance at what she calls “cancer camp.”

     At age two, Frengle got cancer of the eye. She lost the eye and went through a long series of treatments and recovery. Because of that experience, “I always felt some segregation,” she said.

     Seven years ago, she started to attend the week long camp at Cathedral Pines campgrounds, near Boise. Frengle returned this year as a counselor, taking time off from her summer job at Silverwood to attend.

     “The connection that you get at camp is amazing,” she said. “I think the reason that we stay so close is that you've gone through cancer and you could die and we just get that much closer every year.” There is always a memorial service for those who don't make it back the following year.

     For Frengle, juggling many interests does not seem to pose a problem. For two years she wrote for the Cedar Post, the high school newspaper. Since a freshman, she has acted in school plays and this year, along with Calvin Langley, placed second in the Serious Ensemble category of Idaho Theatre Arts Competiton. This Spring, in addition to writing the winning essay for the Task Force scholarship, Frengle had four art pieces shown by Pend Oreille Arts Council, won the Elk’s Student of the Year Award and also won scholarships from the Panida Theatre, Ten Case Foundation, and North Idaho College.

     Frengle plans to attend NIC for one year before heading to Humboldt College in California. She wants to major in Biology.

     Skip and Nancy Pucci and everyone at Pucci Construction in Sandpoint are proud of the young people of this valley who make positive contributions to their communities. In honor of these special young people, the Pucci’s are glad to offer $50 to the kids featured here in each issue of The River Journal. If you know a special kid in your community, call TRJ at 208-255-7487, 406-847-2040 or Skip or Gina Pucci at 208-263-7424.


    In preparing to write this essay, it was hard for me to decide which quote to expand upon given the three provided. At first, I immediately ruled out this one by Martin Luther King, Jr., for I did not think that I truly shared his vision. While it is a great vision to aspire to, I felt it may almost be too late for this worldwide “daylight of peace and brotherhood” to ever come to it’s fruition.
     So I called up a friend and asked her opinion. She too said the same thing,
with her only advice being to choose the King quote so that I could comment on how nearly impossible this goal has become. I figured I shouldn't do that, because I thought the negative attitude might lessen my chance of getting the scholarship. But then I read the directions closer- “To what extent do you share in King's hopeful view....What needs to be done to resolve the stumbling blocks to this world of King's Vision?”
     I've decided to be gutsy. I would have to say that the extent at which I share King's view is a slim one. I have tried numerous times to look to the future of mankind with bright, open eyes, but the vision I see based on current social standings is something I'd rather shut my eyes tight to.
     When the issues of race, disability, and especially sexual preference come up in my classes, it pains and disheartens me too see that more than 75% of my peers hold a hateful, bigoted state of mind. And they say the children are our future…
     Anger coupled with ignorance is the most powerful and unfortunately destructive forces known. I have found it very difficult and usually impossible to sway the feelings of my angry, ignorant peers. Even though the facts stack up against their argument, they have been brought up to see things in a dark, hateful way. It's like trying to move a mountain with only a shovel. I keep thinking, “I know I'm making an impact somewhere, but it's not showing.” And it leaves me tired, worn out, and looking for help-yet no one is brave enough. They can see it's almost an impossible feat.
     I believe that in this universe, all things are held in balance. A yin and yang. Black: white. Right: wrong. War: Peace. Love: Hate. Although hate is a painful thing, I see it that we can never have true peace and love without some form of hate. I understand this must sound very pessimistic, but I refuse to drown myself in a sea of utopian visions. If any real work is to be done on reducing hatred at the core, it must be done with a sound, realistic state of mind.
     From what I see now, however, the balance between love and hate has severely shifted towards the side of hatred. We now have much more than just racism at hand. There is discrimination of creed, disabilities, and overall appearance. There is sexism, fascism, ageism-in the words of John Lennon, “Ism, ism, ism…” But what also was it that he said? “Give peace a chance.”
     It seems like a no-brainer to me. It's always astounded me how much people can hate. Sometimes, I think some people have nothing left that they can enjoy! How can a neo-nazi ever know the real pleasures of music, sports, movies, or even walking down the street without being overcome with bitterness? African-Americans, Latinos, Jews, gays and lesbians alike have become so integrated in all these places that I can't believe that some people STILL can't get over it. Can't get over the fact that HEY! You'd better learn to live with diversity, or you'll have a pretty boring and bitter life. I think if they “gave it a chance,” they'd see what a beautiful world it could be.
     This is where I think an impact can be made. If we can steadily and surely educate our youth to appreciate our great and amazing differences that make up the world and hold it together, then we can begin to shift the balance back over to the love side. Hate will never just go away, but it could diminish to a state where it would finally be “uncool.” After all, the children STILL are our future…
     But it can't stop there. We must continue to encourage integration into all manners of life. This may sound very cold, but if we cannot change the minds of the stubborn, we can at least force them to “get used to it.” There's the old argument of “How would you feel if your best friend / brother /mentor/child told you they were gay / thinking of practicing Judaism / marrying a person of another race etc.” You fill in your own words. Soon I see it that every person will be faced with this notion at least once in his or her life. Yes, we CAN teach our parents, by showing them life through young eyes once again. If they have become so stubborn through old, staggered, hateful ways, they will be able to experience a new light through their child.
     If we can indeed teach the children to love and respect all living creatures, in turn we can change the hearts of some parents who care for their children through their exposure to their fresh outlooks. Time is ticking. Changes need to be made. Changes were supposed to have been made years ago. From the sixties and through the struggle of the Nixon
period, there are still those who continue to rouse. We youth now hold the perpetuity to let the great words of Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon and countless others live on. There will be no more handing the shovel off to someone else.
     No more of this tolerance junk, either. The longer we stand back and tolerate, the more time we waste. Toleration is the enemy. Action is key. Children need to be able to feel at ease with speaking their mind. Gone are the days of “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Providing more comfortable environments and learning facilities for the youth and encouragement to speak their piece of mind needs to be established. In order to have educated youth for the future, there must be those willing to teach now.
     Teachers need to be better screened, higher paid, and evaluated more often. Teaching needs to become a profession that youth of now will have passion for, not dread. Like the commercial that I've seen running recently: “Don't you want to be a doctor, son?”
     “Well, dad, without the teachers, where would we get the doctors?”  With enough people with shovels, we can begin to attack the mountain that is
hatred. The elements that comprise hate will be dispersed so scattered as dust in the wind, that hatred will become dirt at our feet. Then we will be able to climb to the top with ease and scream: “We are free at last!”

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Susan Saxon d'Aoust Susan Saxon d'Aoust is a writer based in Clark Fork.

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