A Fair Trade Education

Courtney Lang December 18, 2011

Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania declared first Public Fair Trade High School in the country

What is the most important thing you learned in High School? Does “finding my place in the global community” make your top 10 list? Probably not. Yet, the tides are changing. Fair Trade High Schools are the newest addition to the Fair Trade Towns and Universities movement, raising awareness among students, faculty and staff about the benefits of Fair Trade for farmers and workers around the world. The goal of a Fair Trade campaign is to embed Fair Trade principles within administrative policy and the social fabric of the academic community, while engaging members to take action with projects and events. Secondary students across the country are finding ways to make a difference, locally and globally. Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania is on the crest of this sea of change, and yesterday was officially declared the first Fair Trade public High School in the country. They are following the example of the Emma Willard School, a private High School in Troy, New York, which was declared a Fair Trade High School in October 2010.

Becoming a Fair Trade High School is no easy task, as Tori Powell, student founder of the Penncrest Fair Trade Initiative, will attest. Tori, who graduated last spring, headed the Fair Trade committee- comprised of students, faculty, and administrative representatives who worked diligently on the application process and garnered support and interest around the idea. To strengthen their efforts, the committee called upon the expertise of Fair Trade leaders in Media, Pennsylvania, home to Penncrest High School, which became the first Fair Trade town in the U.S. in 2006. In a school-wide education effort, the committee hosted many events including film screenings, product tastings, and classroom discussions with teachers, students, administrators, local businesspeople, and parents. As Media, Pennsylvania Fair Trade Towns advocate Hal Taussig says, “Education is the best way to spread the Fair Trade message.

And spread the message they have. With the help of several dedicated teachers, the Food Services coordinator, the Assistant Principal and a local business partner, the committee has introduced Fair Trade cotton uniforms for sports teams and Fair Trade tea and coffee are now staples in the cafeteria and break room. At a screening of The Dark Side of Chocolate the cookies served were made with Fair Trade Certified sugar and chocolate chips – a very sweet way to educate and advocate for Fair Trade.

When asked what valuable lessons she learned through the experience of spearheading the initiative at her school, Tori responded, I learned a lot about the Fair Trade movement that I would not have learned if I was not trying to start a campaign at my school. I learned that many people are willing to listen or help if they are able to, whereas before I would be more likely to forego telling someone (about Fair Trade) just because I assumed they wouldn’t care.” 

Well, we DO care and we congratulate Tori, the Fair Trade Committee at Penncrest High School and the faculty, students and community of supporters for achieving this recognition.

Want to congratulate the Penncrest High School Fair Trade Committee and their supporters? Send a message to Assistant Principal Ralph Harris at raharris@rtmsd.org.

Are you inspired? Do you want to add your voice to the Fair Trade movement? Learn more about Fair Trade Towns, Universities and Schools here: www.fairtradetownsusa.org/why/universities

One Comment

  1. That is such great news. We are working on a private school in Princeton NJ. Exciting!!!

    princeton-nj - 13 years ago

You must log in to join the discussion. If you are not already a member registering is easy.

Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.