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Teens to study human rights

June 15, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

by JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two years ago, Hedgesville High School senior Michael Morrow attended a human rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland. What he learned was jarring.

In China, couples have a cap on how many children they are allowed to have. In the Ukraine, orphanages are overcrowded and poorly funded due to violence and neglect.

"It really opened my eyes about the rights we have and what so many of us take for granted," Morrow said. "I was aware of the problems, but it's a lot different when you see something in the media, then you see it firsthand."

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This summer, Morrow is returning to Geneva with five other Berkeley County teens for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While there, the group will participate in roundtable discussions with teens from all over the world, listen to world-renowned experts on human rights and international law and prepare research papers, which will be presented to the United Nations Youth Delegation and possibly in U.N. chambers.

Morrow was invited to return as a youth advisor and will handle questions on issues of human rights. The others were selected based on their humanitarian work.

"I learned so much the last time, I really want other people to see what I saw and experienced," Morrow said.

The six youth are members of the Total Youth Ministry program - youth groups from St. Joseph Church in Martinsburg and Saint Bernadette Mission in Hedgesville, W.Va.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Morrow, 17, is an honor student, a varsity athlete and a member of the Governor's Honors Academy.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Hedgesville High School junior Angel Miller, 16, volunteers at City Hospital and for the Meals on Wheels program.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Ryan Stocking, 17, also a Hedgesville student, plays three varsity sports, works 35 hours per week and finds time to mow the four-acre field at Saint Bernadette Mission.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Christina Lester, 18, is a staple with the St. Joseph Church Youth Group and will attend West Virginia University this fall.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Shayla Harris, 17, is a peer mediator at Martinsburg High School and participates in several church programs.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Benjamin Leung, 18, is fluent in three languages, is a participant in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine and will attend St. Joseph's University this fall in Philadelphia.

They are the only West Virginia students going to the conference.

Miller said she hopes to broaden her perspective of the world, then share the experience to promote activism among her peers.

"It's an opportunity to expand our version of reality," Miller said. "I think by us being recognized, it may make other youth want to help and reach out."

This won't be a three-week vacation. The teens need to rent an office in Geneva, where they will work from 7 a.m. to midnight researching human rights issues for their papers.

The trip is costly. World Wins Corporation, founded by a United Nations delegate, and the International Catholic Church have provided $10,000 for airfare, lodging and the cost of the conference. The teens and their families are trying to raise a few thousand more for meals, daily bus or cab fare, office space rental and incidentals.

To donate to the fund, send a check or money order in care of the human rights conference to St. Joseph Church, 233 S. Queen St., Martinsburg, W.Va. 25401 or St. Bernadette Mission, P.O. Box 11, Hedgesville, W.Va. 25427-0011.

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