A Plano Senior High School junior has been selected as the first-place winner of the 2021 Stronger Than Hate Challenge. The initiative is sponsored by Discovery Education and the USC Shoah Foundation. It emphasizes the role of social-emotional learning in empowering students to overcome hate and encourages young people to use their voices to connect with the community.
Madhalasa Iyer was inspired by the testimony of holocaust survivor Tamara Bratinski to create a multimedia poem. It emphasized the importance of standing up for what’s right in order to stop history from repeating itself.
In her submission, Madhalasa said, “if we can all speak out against discrimination, our war on division is won and acts such as genocide and atrocities would only be present in the pages of history.”
In recognition of her efforts, Madhalasa will receive a $6000 scholarship as well as an exclusive learning experience for the video poem titled “Where Were You.”
The Stronger than Hate Challenge was created to inspire middle school and high school students to learn from the testimony of survivors and witnesses of genocide. Students ages 13 and up from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada were challenged to work individually or in small groups to submit multimedia projects that demonstrate the power of story to create a community that is stronger than hate.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled rapid increases in racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism all over the world, making the Stronger Than Hate program more important and relevant than ever,” USC Shoah Foundation Head of Programs for Education Lesly Culp said in a release announcing the winners. “Students participating in this unique challenge produced remarkable content, despite many barriers and distance, exemplifying the power of storytelling to promote empathy, understanding, and respect. We are proud of every submission and left hopeful that students will enact real change in their communities as a result of this initiative,”
Second place honors with to seventh-grader Ramaa P. From Avondale Alternative School in Toronto. Benjamin N. From New York’s Cardozo High School took third place.