DENVER - Hayley Vatch knows that most of her students don't know too much about the civil rights leader who died at the age of 95 on Thursday. But, she wants them to leave class with an understanding of what Nelson Mandela stood for.
"It's nice to bring up something that's happening at the present that's all over the news," Vatch said.
Vatch is a social studies teacher at South High School in Denver. In Friday's Social Problems class, she wanted students to realize that history is unfolding right before them.
"Maybe in 50 years, when we read about 20th century civil rights movements, they'll probably all be on the same page - Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela," Vatch said.
Eduarto Soto admits the reality of most teenagers in America.
"I didn't know much about him," Soto, a senior, said.
But, he says once he realized that Mandela stood up for racial equality, while spending 27 years in prison protesting the apartheid movement in South Africa, Soto says he gained respect for Mandela.
"He must've had a really hard life," Soto said. "But, still was a great influence."
Malcolm Wright is a junior who sees great similarities between Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.
"I think teenagers, once they start to know about him; if they start to learn," Wright said. "They will appreciate what we he did and being in prison for 30 years and appreciate that he basically gave his life for us to have a good life."
Vatch hopes it's a good lesson of learning from history for the future.
"If they can see that someone persevered for all 95 years of their life to achieve a goal, to help the rest of society, very selflessly, hopefully that will be a good example for everybody," Vatch said.
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