CJ is Dayton's First Fair Trade School

Chaminade Julienne officially became the first internationally recognized Fair Trade School in southwest Ohio on April 14.

Students Cari Zahn, Will Howard, Annelise Wilimitis and Isabela Rougeux earned official recognition from Fair Trade Campaigns, a grassroots movement that recognizes advocates throughout the United States, upon completing their Senior Capstone project.

"It is so important to connect students and teachers to the issue of Fair Trade," said Courtney Lang, the national organizer for Fair Trade Towns and Schools. "Having the designation as a Fair Trade School shows members of the Chaminade Julienne community that they can make a difference to change the global economy, both now and in the future.

"Through continued engagement, we'd like to use CJ as a model for other private high schools that want to become Fair Trade Schools," Lang said. CJ is just the 12th Fair Trade School in the country. To achieve the distinction, students collaborated with local business owner and activist London Coe.

"By becoming a Fair Trade School, CJ is saying that they are committed to creating leaders who want to be civically engaged," Coe said. She is the founder of Peace on Fifth, a "compassionate commerce" store that sells Fair Trade products downtown at 234 S. Dutoit Street.

“When kids and parents are looking at CJ to attend or when graduates are applying to college, they will know that beyond the legacy of building great minds, CJ is building great hearts,” she said.

The official designation means that CJ — in harmony with its mission to educate the whole person, work for justice and develop family spirit — will continue to support issues including:

  • paying workers a fair wage,
  • ending human trafficking and child labor,
  • promoting education for children,
  • protecting the environment, and
  • respecting artists and artisans by honoring their cultural diversity.

“Peace on Fifth, London Coe specifically, was amazing help in completing our project,” Zahn said.“We joined the Dayton Fair Trade steering committee which London is the head of, and we just kind of became the CJ branch. Through those meetings we were able to keep up with the Fair Trade things happening in the Dayton community.”

The City Commission declared Dayton a Fair Trade city last summer after Coe successfully led the Make Dayton a Fair Trade Town campaign. Leading up to the declaration, then CJ students Thomas Cox '13 and Elizabeth Rosenkranz '13 worked on the campaign as part of their pilot Capstone project on human trafficking.

Since 2011, the number of human trafficking victims jumped from 20.1 million to 29.8 million according to the Global Slavery Index. Due to these staggering numbers and the success of her previous projects, Coe said she believed it only made sense to reach out to CJ about making it a Fair Trade School.

So picking up where Cox and Rosenkranz left off, this year's seniors worked with Coe and Molly Bardine, capstone coordinator, toward earning the school's Fair Trade certification beginning in the fall. The process challenged students to earn three "badges" for their work.

The first badge was earned for creating a team and the second required the team to commit to Fair Trade education and events. The group accomplished this requirement in classes by screening the movie, “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” a documentary about African children who are traded as slaves for cocoa and the production of chocolate.

They also took advantage of Prom by distributing chocolate from Equal Exchange, a for-profit Fair Trade company, in each Prom favor with a note that read, “Nothing tastes better than free fair chocolate. Enjoy!” In the days before the event, the group explained Fair Trade and the significance of the Prom favors to their classmates in junior and senior religion classes.

Finally, students had to source two Fair Trade products and make them readily available at CJ. The school already offered Equal Exchange coffee in the teacher's lunch room. After consulting with Mrs. Bardine, the group discovered the Fair Trade beverage Honest Tea, which is distributed by Coca Cola, and worked with the school's cafeteria vendor, W.G. Grinders, to make the tea available for purchase in the cafeteria.

“I don’t think many people in our community were either aware or able to grasp how big what we were trying to do actually was,” Zahn said. “Once we accomplished it, and our project became more known, the feedback we have received has been phenomenal.”

By earning their third and final badge, CJ became just the second Fair Trade school in all of Ohio. It took the Capstone group just eight months to complete the project, one that would normally take years.

“Our goal with this project was to simply educate people to make them more conscience consumers, but continuing the project is key to earning the badge. What's awesome is there has already been talk about some juniors wanting to take over and do bigger and better things,” Howard said.

“As a group we're just happy to say we were able to bring the subject of Fair Trade to light at CJ. From here forward it will support itself, all we had to do was open the door," he said.