George School students Rhianna Searle ’23, Megha Rao ’23, Sevde Guleryuz ’23, Ellie Gibson ’22, and Genesis Chalmers ’22 won the Grand Prize for the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Human Rights Speak Truth to Power video contest held at the Tribeca Film Festival for their film When Home is the Mouth of a Shark on June 9, 2022.
The RFK Human Rights Speak Truth to Power video contest, now in its tenth year, encourages middle school and high school students to develop interest in key human rights issues through creative storytelling.
When Home is the Mouth of a Shark highlights the work of Lindsey Stephenson, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University and a volunteer with the Muslim Center of Greater Princeton, for her work advocating for and supporting Afghan evacuees. The film profiles how Stephenson’s work inspired students to help organize the Nowruz festival held on campus this past spring. Nowruz celebrates the Muslim New Year and the arrival of spring—it’s a celebration of new beginnings.
“We have been so lucky in recent years for our students to be honored frequently in this competition,” said History Teacher Meredith Baldi. “But this year in particular, I feel so much pride, as these films highlight not just those who have inspired our students, but our students themselves. These films are a testament to our students’ active citizenship and its impact, and they highlight their lived experience promoting justice and defending human rights.”
Rhianna paid tribute to film as a powerful tool of storytelling in her acceptance speech to RFK Human Rights. “Film is an important medium for social justice because it has the power to tell emotional stories,” said Rhianna. “Films can outlive stories that would otherwise be left untold—stories that are often left in the shadows but are in reality the sunshine that light up our world.”
Lauren Weizer ’23, Celeste Huang-Menders ’22, Matt Swain ’23, Berenice Benitez-Carlos ’22, and Devin Vandenberg ’23 also won second place at the video competition for their profile of Celeste and her work with The Power of Faces. This project was a collaboration between a George School IB Global Politics class in its human rights unit and the IB Film class.
Celeste and her family started The Power of Faces portrait project of refugees to give them a physical photo of family or friends that they can hold onto as a comforting keepsake amidst the hardships and displacements they face. “The more we remember to show kindness to others in need, the better the world can be,” said Celeste. A photography exhibit of the project was also displayed in Walton Center Gallery on campus last year.
“Being a part of the RFK competition for the past few years has been amazing,” said Film Teacher Prescott Seraydarian. “It’s offered many opportunities for our students, but at the top of the list for me is how it has challenged them to tell compelling stories about real world people doing positive work and inspiring change. It also allows them to work collaboratively with a wide group of people within the community and also outside of George School. While the awards our students have achieved are exciting, it’s this opportunity for lived learning that’s been so rewarding for me to see.”