Kyle Strang, who was killed in a car crash in 2010

Jacqueline Barber writes:

Kyle was 16 years old when he died. He and his close friend Prentice lost their lives in a fiery crash on the Richmond Parkway, March 31, 2010, in a tragic end to two promising lives.

Kyle, a junior at Berkeley High School, had more to do in this world. He dreamed of going to Israel, because of a deep connection he felt, and his desire to make a difference for peace and security within the region. While his classmates were taking the SAT prep classes, Kyle was earning money to pay for a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv. His determination and passion were such that no one doubted he would get there. The only question was how he would choose to engage in the struggle for peace. With knowing eyes and a heart bigger than most, Kyle formed deep friendships everywhere he turned. He was gifted in finding ways to bridge differences; he exuded empathy and understanding. Kyle was everyone’s friend.

Kyle’s classmates and teachers have taken on his dream, and are pushing to make the trip that Kyle was unable to make. In his honor, a group of 17 Berkeley High School students and teachers are raising funds to create the Kyle Harty Strang Leadership Program and 2011 Middle East Encounter Trip. The group has partnered with an international, nonpartisan, non-profit organization called Seeking Common Ground, based in Denver. Seeking Common Ground connects young leaders in Palestine, Israel and the United States — the next generation of leaders — to help them learn about the conflict in the Middle East and related issues, as well as build skills and dispositions that promote listening, respectful discourse, and abilities to transform antagonistic relationships into partnerships. Rather than trying to advance a specific agenda, Seeking Common Ground works to promote dialogue and to help people with multiple perspectives to come to understand, if not agree with, another’s point of view. Seeking Common Ground uses this person-to-person strategy to break down stereotypes of “the other.” While other seniors at Berkeley High will be spending their spring semester winding down, these 17 classmates of Kyle’s will be participating in three leadership development retreats conducted by Seeking Common Ground, and going on a ten-day trip to the Middle East where they will meet with Palestinian and Israeli teens who struggle with working through conflict in all parts of their lives.

At least that’s the plan. The first of the Kyle Harty Strang Leadership Development retreats is later this month, with two others to follow. However, the trip will only happen if these students are successful in raising enough funds.

Kyle’s family has contributed all of the funds in the Kyle Harty Strang Memorial Fund — donations from over 162 people nationwide who want to honor the memory of Kyle. A grant of $5,000 was made by the Samuel Rubin Foundation. $6,000 was raised at a pair of benefit dinners held at the guerilla restaurant, Café 20, earlier this month. And in addition to their college applications, students in the program have submitted applications to local Jewish organizations for scholarships, one of which has been awarded. Counting each family’s contribution, the total is within reach. However, many thousands more must be raised.

If you are interested in supporting this worthwhile endeavor and memorial to Kyle, please consider attending one or more of the following benefit events, or simply making a tax deductible donation to the Kyle Harty Strang Memorial Fund. Details follow:

Bungee Jumpin’ Cows Benefit Concert

Come hear the Bay Area’s favorite children’s science rock band in this special benefit concert. Silly, fun, rousing, hilarious and educational, the Bungee Jumping Cows are guaranteed to please young and old alike. Be prepared for pirates, termites, cavemen, Bubba the frog and more. Come on down… you might learn a science concept or two while you are laughing!

Sunday, February 13, Aurora School Auditorium, 2:00 to 3:30 p.m., sliding scale for tickets ($5 and up)

Benefit Film Screening of My So-Called Enemy

Filmmaker Lisa Gossels’ film My So-Called Enemy, follows six Israeli and Palestinian participants of the 2002 Seeking Common Ground Building Bridges for Peace program. It beautifully captures the power of their summer experience and then follows the girls as they navigate their relationships over the next seven years. As described on its website, the film “speaks to the humanity and complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in every frame. But, it is also a coming of age story that transcends the conflict.  It’s about the power of individual narratives to open hearts and minds, challenge long-held pre-conceptions, and create the space for dialogue, with the goal of creating more just societies here and abroad.” The film was shown at the SF Jewish Film Festival last July.

Sunday March 6, Berkeley High School Little Theater, 4:00-6:00 p.m., tickets on a sliding scale ($10 and up)

Tax deductable donations to the Kyle Harty Strang Memorial Fund can be made by sending a check made payable to: The Berkeley Public Education Foundation, write “Kyle Strang Memorial Fund” on the memo line, and send to: Kyle Strang Memorial Fund, 828 Ashbury St., San Francisco, CA 94117.

Or go directly to the Berkeley Public Education Foundation to donate online.  In the place where it asks whether you’d like to dedicate your donation, write: Kyle Strang Memorial Fund.

Jacqueline Barber is one of the organizers of the Kyle Harty Strang Leadership Program and Middle East Encounter Trip. Along with a group of other adult and student volunteers, she is working hard to raise funds to make this program a reality. She is the parent of a Berkeley High School student, a close friend of Kyle’s, who will participate in the program.

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