is a core component of the at the Emory University . The Forum accepts fifteen undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at Emory. This group participates in a year-long collaborative learning experience that includes retreats, skill-building sessions, outside speakers, and student-developed projects. The Forum is broken down into smaller focus groups that examine the work of various non-profit organizations around Atlanta. Below are the stories of three students from the 2011-2012 EASL Forum whose unique life stories and personal understandings about ethics were inextricably linked to the work they did.
Minkyung Sung read a story that made her feel sick. The story, reported by CNN was about a twelve year old girl who was kidnapped and forced in to prostitution. The treatment was brutal but she somehow managed to escape. The tragedy is that at the age of twenty she became a pimp herself. The reason? She felt as if there were no other options. This story stuck in her mind for a year before she conceptualized a creative response.
Through the EASL forum, Sung found that Jennifer Goldberg, Anna Nelson-Daniel, Nathalie Angel, and Won Chul Shin were also concerned about the topic of sex trafficking. In a group of five, and in partnership with , they decided to make a film. Sung has a background in film-making and has worked on numerous film sets. She said, “I never thought of making this topic into a movie. But then I began thinking about how powerful a film can be when it comes to spreading the message.” The critical problem, she said, is that “sex work is a vicious cycle.”
Pulling together this unique project required extra time and effort from the entire group. Partially due to the size of the Atlanta airport, Atlanta is one of the most well known cities for sex trafficking. One of the challenges the group faced was when they were denied access to film in the parking lot of the Atlanta airport. After going back and forth with various airport administrators the main reason for the denial was because the topic was controversial. Sung was deeply upset by this, she said, “it is people’s ignorance that allows these horrible things to continue.”
|Minkyung Sung, Anna Nelson-Daniel, Jennifer Goldberg|
Nathalie Angel, Won Chul Shin
A result of making the film that exceeded Sung’s expectation was a thirty-second pause from the audience that proceeded a screening of the film. Members of the audience described their feelings of shock, depression, and sickness. Sung said, “When I first heard the story I felt that same sickness, I wanted to deliver that feeling that I experienced to the audience.”
Sung is a Philosophy major and believes that solutions are rooted in legal activism and education. "Until laws change, building awareness is the key. These girls can be your sister, daughter, or granddaughter. I don’t expect everyone to do something, but for the issue to not be ignored from now on is the best I can hope for.”
Sung said she will never forget the issues she has created films about and plans to make more films that expose ethical problems. The EASL Forum allowed social activism to take place among a group of students as they created a film that was an outlet for their anger and sadness. The film reveals a complex and deeply troubling story that needs to be told.
Ann Rochell Ermitanio’s parents emigrated to the Northern Mariana Islands. Throughout her life, she gained firsthand insights into the social, cultural, and economic barriers that immigrants and refugees face. Ann Rochell along with, Melia Haile, Uma Chidambaram, and Mia Michalak make up the EASL team that worked with the Georgia Refugee Health and Mental Health Organization.
|Uma Chidambaram, Melia Haile, Ann Rochell Ermitanio,|
The group’s work was centered around the various initiatives of the organization. These initiatives included home visits, clinic navigation, health education, and medical literacy programs. The organization partners with universities, hospitals, and other health care providers to provide a broad-reaching, on the ground support system for refugees. Each week, the members of the small group would come together to discuss their work. Ermitanio said, “I was able to understand things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if the other group members hadn’t brought it up. It’s through discussions and debriefings that allowed me to really process what I just experienced.”
Throughout this experience, Ermitanio noticed a disconnect between health care systems and the individuals they are providing for, particularly if the individual comes from a unique background. Newly resettled refugees, she said, “are not always aware of how the American health care system works. Basic processes such as prescription refills may be a new concept for a lot of them.” She saw that each person from around the world has a different way of understanding their own health care. Unfortunately, for refugees, their medical needs can get lost in translation.
“It is important that our health care providers understand the cultures of different people and barriers they often face coming to America,” said Ermitanio. This is an area that she hopes to address throughout her career. She is majoring in Biology and Sociology in order to prepare herself to become a Physician Assistant.
There were times this year that she felt helpless with patients because she wasn’t a primary care provider. At the same time, she realized the importance of being there with them. She said, “I wish I could diagnose their treatment and find ways to treat them, but even though I can’t, I know that through this program, I am still able to help them. I’m providing information that allows them to access health care.” Ermitanio’s life experiences and challenges have led her to better relate to others. Her experiences through the EASL forum have given her perspectives on health care that are unique and invaluable to the future of our health care systems.
Cymone Gates chose to work with Forever Family because of her personal history with an incarcerated parent. Forever Family is a local and national non-profit organization that supports children who have one or more incarcerated parents. Children with incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to end up in prison themselves. Forever Family empowers children through after school programs, confidence building activities, dinners to teach etiquette, and bi-monthly prison visits. Gates and her fellow team members, Danielle Douez, Inna Polyakova, William Eye, and Digant Kapoor participated in various aspects of Forever Family’s initiatives.
|Inna Polykova, Digant Kapoor, Beth Wettlin, Cymone Gates,|
William Eye, Danielle Douez
Gates woke up at 5am on a Saturday to meet the children and their care-givers. She accompanied the children on a bus that would charge them $1 to visit their parents. The group spent about twelve hours at the prison. Because of Forever Family, some of the prisons in Georgia have created children’s centers that offer a fun and enriching environment for the children during their visit. The day transpired with games, raffles, free meals, and play time for the children and their families. The environment was beneficial and exceptional. “When I was a kid visiting my father there was just a table and we couldn’t get up and hug. We could only sit and talk for a limited time, Gates said.”
Throughout the day, Gates was encouraged to assist the children and interact with the families when she could. She described one boy that was upset and standing alone. She approached him and found out that he was mad at his mother and upset with the whole situation. At that point, his mother walked over to comfort him. Gates was overcome with emotion and stepped away from the group. “It broke my heart; it was so sad. You can’t blame him. That’s exactly how it feels. You’re upset at [the parent] for being there.”
Gates expected to interact with the children through tutoring but is grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit the prison. She felt rewarded by both the fun moments and the more challenging moments as well. She said, “because of EASL I became involved with a lot of social justice or ethics type discussions for the first time. I actually saw social justice first hand because the Forever Family leaders showed me examples of how to make a difference.” She is now considering changing her career path from Biology to Public Health because, she said, “I am passionate about making a difference. EASL is the most rewarding experience of my life so far.” Although changing career directions has been a challenge, she said, “that’s a goal I have for myself now. How to enrich my life.”
The Ethics and Servant Leadership Forum has had a profound impact on the personal lives and professional aspirations of these students. Their work has benefited communities in Atlanta and given them new perspectives about ethics and social justice.
Thank you to the students who have shared their stories and to each student who participated in the Forum this year. We are also grateful to our community partners who diligently and compassionately work every day to create a better world.
The EASL Program is generously funded by an endowment from Mr. William B. Turner in memory of his father, D. Abbott Turner. The program is directed by Dr. Edward Queen. The academic year Forum is led by the program’s Assistant Director, Carlton Mackey. Applications for the Forum are due at the beginning of each academic year in September. For more information click here.
|Carlton Mackey and Edward Queen at the|
2011-2012 Forum Closing Banquet