Students to sell book of essays, poetry by Afghan women at Comic-Con to raise money to help Afghan students
Canyon Crest Academy students to sell book by Afghan women at Comic-Con to raise money to help Afghan students
A group of teens at Canyon Crest Academy is trying to help a group of teens in Afghanistan get the education they seek.
The students here met the students there through Zoom classes, where they enjoyed talking about common interests like favorite books, courses and sports. The students became friends.
Now the local students are raising money to help their friends’ learning center in Kabul, Afghanistan, which for many female students is their only chance to get an education.
The American students are part of a club called “Flowers For The Future,” which formed in May 2021 at Canyon Crest Academy to meet virtually with students in Afghanistan.
Since then it has grown to connect students around the globe and foster cross-cultural conversations. The effort to help students in Kabul quickly grew into a worldwide mission to help students across the world have equitable access to education.
The club’s name comes from a professor in Afghanistan who called his students his “flowers.”
The club will have a booth at Comic-Con July 20-22 and will sell copies of “Arrows of Light: The Journeys of Afghan Women,” an anthology of short essays and poetry by 23 Afghan women that gives glimpses into their lives.
It was published by the International Women’s Writers Guild Press and translated by an American girl, Emily Khossravi, who is a student at Canyon Crest Academy and will be signing copies at the Comic-Con booth. The funds are slated to go toward hiring teachers, ensuring student security and providing Wi-Fi connectivity for Afghan girls to pursue an education at a learning center in Kabul.
The effort started in April of 2021, when Timothy Stiven, a social science and humanities teacher at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, held a Zoom meeting with his class here and a class in Kabul.
“The Hazara students instantly connected with the Americans, discovering that their favorite subjects, books and sports were the same,” said Canyon Crest Academy senior, Geoffrey Duan, a student in Stiven’s AP European History class and chief technology officer for Flowers For the Future.
After hearing about the Taliban takeover in August 2021 and finding out the Afghan girls could not attend regular schools, the club wanted to help the girls get the learning they so badly wanted. “Our purpose was clear,” Duan said.
Stiven’s students began teaching science labs over Zoom to girls in Kabul.
Students in the club produced YouTube educational videos, mostly in science, with the help of Canyon Crest teachers such as Stiven, who is faculty adviser for the Flowers For the Future club.
“Kabul students truly are invested in continuing their education. They enjoy sharing what they know with us as much as we enjoy sharing what we know with them,” Stiven said.
The online curriculum and live lessons focus on biology and chemistry and are taught in English. The club offers Science, Technology and Mathemtics (STEM) resources on the club’s YouTube channel. The club also teaches an English as a Second Language (ESL) course and gives tutorials to help students prepare for their version of the SAT exams.
“Seeing how strong, intelligent and motivated these girls are despite their circumstances and watching their excitement and growth throughout the many lessons we have given them is inspiring. The experience has truly reminded me what it means to have a love of learning,” said Asya Anderson. The Canyon Crest Academy graduate, now a freshman at Princeton University, was in charge of the online chemistry courses.
Students here witnessed the excitement of learning and saw how much students there were willing to risk for it.
“Working with the girls in Afghanistan, who risk their lives every day to attend class, has really conveyed how much they value their education. I want to be able to help them achieve their future goals. Seeing their faces light up at an elephant toothpaste experiment, or their excitement at DNA extraction, and all of the eager questions they have, means a lot to me,” said Selena Xiang, a Canyon Crest Academy graduate and freshman at Princeton University, who worked side by side with Anderson on the chemistry curriculum.
At the beginning of last year, students from a school in Hong Kong asked to join the club and became the group’s first international partner. Students from San Diego and Hong Kong lead monthly Zoom meetings and lessons in biology, along with discussions on art and literature.
At the end of last year, a school near Boston heard about the effort through its involvement with Women in STEM and now helps provide lessons in biology along with collaborating on classes on art and literature.
The club has grown to several hundred members across the world, including 40 members at Canyon Crest Academy. There are clubs in Afghanistan, Boston, Hong Kong and Los Angeles and more are forming.
The effort includes students from other schools in Kentucky, Georgia and Tijuana who are interested in helping. In total, the club has helped over 300 girls in Kabul and more than 100 outside Afghanistan who have participated in Flowers over the past 2 1/2 years, according to Stiven, who was 2022 Teacher of the Year for the San Dieguito Union High School District.
The goal is to give the girls opportunities to continue their education, and to improve their English language skill and eventually receive U.S. or California high school diplomas.
“The passion to connect and learn is what motivates the Afghan students to continue to go to the learning center, regardless of the danger. For now, this is their only source of formal education,” Duan said.
The club’s fundraising autograph booth is slated to be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. July 20 and from noon to 1:30 July 21 and 22 at Comic-Con, on the upper level in the Sails Pavilion of the convention center.
“One of the main themes of Flowers is the use of 21st-century technology to promote global equity in education. A lot of 21st-century tech, especially NFTs, are something made and improved by our generation, for our generation. It’s another way to form a deeper connection between people of our same age. We’re confident this campaign will help raise awareness and funds to make a real difference in the lives of our Afghan friends,” said Angela Aguirre, a Canyon Crest senior and founder of Flowers For the Future.
The club plans to use NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in their fundraising efforts, an idea Duan spearheaded.
Duan said the club is finalizing an agreement with the Afghanistan school to transform the students’ artworks into digital tokens.
“These digital tokens extend our reach to potential donors, accommodating those who cannot attend Comic-Con,” Duan said.
“NFTs are a potent engagement tool for upcoming artists and organizations by offering a platform to sell their digital version of artworks directly to supporters, bypassing traditional intermediaries such as art galleries,” said Duan who also runs a crypto education organization called Heffe Academy.
The club is also hosting a free panel discussion, titled “Afghan Girls Art and Poetry Exchange” at 5 p.m. July 22 at the Shiley Special Events Suite in the San Diego Central Library. Khossravi, the “Arrows of Light” translator, will share her experience working with the author and other club members will talk about their efforts to develop curriculum, raise money and do outreach.
For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For the club’s website, visit https://www.flowersforthefuture.org.
Get the RSF Review weekly in your inbox
Latest news from Rancho Santa Fe every Thursday for free
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Rancho Santa Fe Review.