Students Help High Schoolers Write Human Rights Book

A photo of Trace Taylor, AnnMarie Alberton Gunn, and Nicole Darbois standing side by side

From left: Trace Taylor, AnnMarie Alberton Gunn, and Nicole Darbois.

USFSP graduate students Trace Taylor and Nicole Darbois are making a difference in the lives of 65 local high school students with the guidance of education faculty member AnnMarie Alberton Gunn. The trio designed and implemented a human rights writing workshop with ninth graders at Boca Ciega High School. The resulting content was published in a book this month.

The project was born from Taylor and Darbois, who were enrolled in independent studies with Gunn.

“They shared a lot of the same goals, so I introduced them and we all met to discuss the idea of completing a joint project,” said Gunn. “They talked about their expectations and designed a writing curriculum that focused on universal design for learning and social justice issues.”

Darbois, a high school teacher at Boca Ciega High School, and Taylor met in mid-January and developed a plan for the workshop. By early February, they were teaching the curriculum to Darbois’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students.

The high school students studied and researched topics relating to human rights and engaged in college-level conversations via an online discussion board. They watched videos and read articles and books relating to the human rights topic of their choice.

“They were interacting with one another about important issues, sharing their opinions and using evidence to back up those opinions,” said Darbois, 33, an English Education major who has taught at BCHS since 2007. “I think they discovered that even though the U.S. has made tremendous strides in human rights, there are still many issues that need to be addressed and resolved. One student told me that they felt empowered to do something about some of the injustices they unearthed doing this project.”

A photo of the book cover of

The book cover for the “Human Rights” book

Taylor, 54, majors in interdisciplinary studies and hopes to learn from the real-time peer review and data in the classroom. She said the feedback she has received from students has been encouraging.

“One kid emailed me the day after the deadline to thank me for opening his eyes to the discrimination and inequality in the world, and stated that he believed we all had to keep fighting against this inequality,” said Taylor. “I knew then with just these two kids alone—and they are two of many stories like this—that the workshop series had been a success.”

The publication of the book will be celebrated at a book signing event from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 30 in the USFSP University Student Center. The event, which will showcase the work of the student authors who will autograph copies of the book, is a collaboration between the USFSP College of Education, Boca Ciega High School, the USFSP Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership, Kappa Delta Phi, and the nonprofit Community Leveraged Learning.

“This is a great achievement, and many of these students have not experienced this type of academic achievement and celebration,” said Gunn. “This book signing project gives these freshmen AVID students the opportunity to be celebrated for their hard work.”