LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A recent Little Rock student is now working to create change in the Arkansas education system.
David Ronnel graduated from Central High School in 2022. He said after experiencing antisemitism himself in high school and after learning how little young Arkansans know about the holocaust, he knew he needed to do something.
“I was raised by strong Jewish men and women who taught me to be proud of who I am,” Ronnel said. “In and outside of public schools, I faced tremendous amounts of antisemitism, and after facing so much hatred, I decided to do something about it.”
At the age of just 17, Ronnel went straight to the top, calling on legislators and getting a part of activism groups to change the narrative.
“I started this at the beginning of my high school career,” he explained. “I had no idea what it takes to write and draft a bill outside of my 9th-grade civics class, but I started just cold-calling legislators and getting people active in my community.”
Ronnel said he began drafting a bill to teach children in public schools in Arkansas about the history of the Holocaust and Jewish history. These were lessons it appeared students in the Natural State needed.
“Arkansas ranked last in a 50-state survey amongst millennials in Holocaust knowledge,” Ronnel stated. “We were dead last, in all 50 states.”
The legislation Ronnel pushed, Act 611, went into effect in 2021 under former Gov. Asa Hutchinson and is being implemented in the 2022-2023 school year. The law states Holocaust education is required to be taught in all public schools in Arkansas.
“When this bill got passed, I felt so supported by my community. When I sat there in the Capitol shaking Asa Hutchinson’s hand, I just felt so much appreciation for Arkansas and our ability to overcome hate,” Ronnel said. “Over 300,000 students are receiving this brand-new curriculum this school year in over 500 schools across the state.”
David is now 19 years old and a freshman at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
He also founded a non-profit called the AHEAD Fund to give cash fund rewards to teachers who go above and beyond teaching the holocaust in their schools in the state of Arkansas.
If educators are interested in learning more, they can visit TheAHEADFund.com.