This story was originally published in our January/February 2015 issue.
Ariel Kantor, a senior at Chapel Hill High, started the Chapel Hill Elementary Tutors, volunteers every Saturday at UNC Hospitals, did research last summer through the National Institutes of Health Student Internship Program, and competes on his school’s junior varsity basketball team and varsity swim team, which won the 3A championship his sophomore year.
But he’s proudest of his work with Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE). He’s currently vice president of the club’s national youth advisory board and president of his school’s chapter.
When he learned about SAVE’s mission during his freshman year and met the club’s advisor, Jim Wise, he quickly decided that with his background, the club would be a good fit.
A first-generation Israeli immigrant, Ariel and his family moved to the United States when he was 10 to escape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He came expecting a relief from the violence surrounding him as a child; instead, he found that violence presented itself differently in the U.S.
“Moving here, I was shocked that it’s really an issue here as well, with the recent high school shootings and just shootings across the country,” he says. “I think SAVE, with its national power, is really good at addressing that.” SAVE’s mission is “to promote nonviolence in our schools and communities and also to just create a welcoming environment promoting safe activities, like anti-bullying, peer empowerment and such,” says 18-year-old Ariel.
Sometimes, the club’s activities are lighthearted; recently, members did a seat belt check after school and handed out candy to students – if drivers were wearing seat belts, they got Smarties. If not, they received a Dum Dums lollipop.
But some of the club’s activities are more serious. Every two years, it puts on a driving under the influence mock car crash, usually around prom time. The junior and senior classes gather outside to watch the spectacle, which brings in real police officers, firefighters and a helicopter.
“It really is powerful because it’s really real,” Ariel says.
Beyond his extracurricular activities, Ariel has an academic passion as well – biology. He hopes to major in it in college and become a neuro-oncologist.
Although he has applied to several colleges and is keeping his options open, he set his sights on Duke when he moved to this country eight years ago.
“That was my goal – to make sure I could get the scholarships and just get academically ready and have a chance to at least apply there,” he says. “It’s always been my dream.”
He intends to bring a piece of his high school years with him. “I want to continue SAVE,” he says. “I hope to bring SAVE to college.”