This summer, sophomore Zoya Haq joined a Zoom call with six other students, the organizer of Close Up and … surprise guest Chris Evans. Through a virtual program called IMPACT, Haq worked with three other participants to create a website promoting diversity in history curricula.
“It’s important for history curriculum to reflect the student body that’s learning them, and I feel that at the moment, that might not be true across the board,” Haq said. “We wanted to create a website that makes it easier for teachers to have access to these diverse materials, especially through first-person perspectives because those are really powerful.”
Haq first got involved with CloseUp Foundation’s IMPACT 2020 program through an email from Laura Day, director of the Institute for Social Impact. Meadow Wiggington, the director of IMPACT, said that the two-week program aimed to empower youth by helping them build a strong action plan.
“The thing that is the most powerful that comes out of all these programs is the work that students will do across the country,” Wiggington said. “The thing about HiStory Retold and so many of the other projects that we were able to see is that it’s just possible. It’s just possible to say, ‘Ok I have different opinions and different priorities, but this is an issue that matters to me. How can we come together and do something about it?’”
Haq partnered with three other girls to address gender and racial inequity. The group then developed the idea for HiStory Retold, a website that publishes testimonials submitted by users, with the mission
to diversify history curricula throughout the United States.
“We were all passionate about incorporating an electronic aspect into it because we know that it’s a really easy way to get youth involved,” Haq said. “I had actually participated in a program earlier this summer that focused on the power of stories in history. So I was like, ‘What if we did testimonials?’”
Sarah Strum, the Outreach Director for CloseUp, said that Haq’s group used their own stories as a launching point for the website, which made the project more powerful.
“We all tell our stories in unofficial testimonials when we meet new people,” Strum said. “Why
shouldn’t there be some kind of universal place or resource where all of these are told? A teacher from New York could be heard by a student in Michigan or in Texas. At a time when it’s really hard to meet new people and hear new voices, [HiStory Retold] brought us more voices to hear from.”
After pitching their idea to a panel of judges, the group was chosen as one of the top three winners, and they presented their idea at the Do Good Conference. Then, Close Up Foundation reached out to Haq about working with their partner, Chris Evans’ program A Starting Point.
As part of A Starting Point, Haq was able to discuss pressing issues with Evans. The students came up with questions for local lawmakers and talked about issues they wanted political candidates to address, and for Haq, that issue was the opportunity gap.
“I think that the issue with our country is that a lot of times, young people feel like they don’t have a say,” Haq said. “The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of other ways for youth to get involved. Just by doing your research and teaching yourself about different policies in our country, you can learn so much about the way that this country runs. And just by knowing that information, you can make such a big difference.”