Leitson helped OPRF be sweatshop-free

Israel trip opened her mind, OPRF improved her confidence

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

2007 Citizen Awards
When Sarah Leitson cares about something, she really knows how to make it happen.

One of those things is stopping inhumane practices in the workplace, which is why she got involved with Students Against Sweatshops (SAS) her freshman year at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Her efforts helped to make the school "sweat free"-no item used there was created in a sweatshop.

Also, SAS helped to make OPRF one of only two schools in the nation that are affiliated with the Worker's Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization.

"[Students] are one of the few groups that seem as if they aren't looking at boycotts or in-your-face tactics, which, in my opinion, don't accomplish much." Leitson said about why she first got involved. "They're really going to the root cause [of the problem]."

Leitson doesn't see herself as a leader, but nevertheless, she has taken leadership positions in the school and community, acting as club president of Students for Peace and Justice and getting promoted to counselor-in-training at Camp Tavor, a Jewish community summer camp where she has spent the past nine summers.

"I'm not the outspoken, rile-everyone-up sort of leader," she said. "But I know how to get things done, and when it comes to working in a group, I get organized and usually motivate people to get things done, and in that sense, I'm a leader."

In the summer of 2005, she traveled to Israel with a youth group called Habonim Dror. She returned a changed person after hearing the diversity of views from people there.

"It really opened my mind to various opinions," she said. "It opened my mind that there can be more than one right answer."

After graduation, Leitson plans to attend college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., which she chose for its small, intimate environment. She's not sure what field she wants to study but is interested in possibly one of the social sciences, international studies, or environmental studies.

Leitson had positive experiences studying history at OPRF, and that plays a factor in what she wants to do with her future.

"I think I've had really stimulating classes in history that have really opened my eyes up to that area of education," she said.

She's keeping her options open, though, because, "You never know when you could have that one amazing teacher who'd make me realize that I love something different."

Going into OPRF, Leitson wasn't really shy, but at the same time, she wasn't outgoing. In four years of high school, she has put aside any fear resting in her.

"I've learned to put myself out there, not be afraid to try things or to approach people," she said. "I think I'm leaving high school with much more confidence, especially in talking to people. I take advantage of opportunities that arise, and I'm not afraid to do so."

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