Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Pewaukee HS senior Nedda Besharat connects students in US to kids in Iran
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The class of 2021 has had an unusual senior year, to say the least. They’ve overcome a lot with the pandemic to get to graduation day. We recently met one senior who’s been working all year to bring people together, even while we’ve been apart.
The sound of musical scales drifted across the classroom at Pewaukee High School.
“Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti,” sang the students, warming up their voices.
In the middle of the group was senior, Nedda Besharat. She is savoring these final, face to face moments with her classmates before graduation.
“It's been really nice to be able to see my friends and just come to school like any other year,” Besharat said.
But this hasn’t been a year like any other. Students have a had a combination of virtual and in-person learning. And even with these challenges, Besharat has found a way to unlock something special here at Pewaukee High School.
“It's called Project Speac, which is spelled S-P-E-A-C,” she said of her project—speac is pronounced “speak.”
She got her idea during her sophomore year while talking with others kids. It’s a moment associate principal Paul Bursi recalls.
“I remember the conversation between the two of those, thinking these are two world-changers who are going to do something, in this school or well after their time here, to really make a difference in the world, so here we are today, talking about just that,” Bursi said.
And while everyone else gets used to seeing people in person again, Besharat created conversations on the other side of the world.
She launched the Project Speac website this year, and it connects kids at Pewaukee High School with students in Iran.
“I truly believe that cultural understanding can be sparked from just having a simple conversation with another person and discovering we're more alike than we are different,” Besharat said.
And for Nedda, it’s a personal mission.
“Growing up as an Iranian American, I've witnessed all the stigma that is associated with the Iranian people,” she explained.
Besharat grew up in Pewaukee, but most of her extended family is in Iran. She said she’s heard all kinds of misconceptions.
“Iranians are terrorists, or Iran is a desert, or there's a war going on there,” she said, naming a few.
She set out to show her classmates that we all have more similarities than differences.
“A lot of the students came up to me and were just like, oh my goodness, they like K Pop? They like Billie Eilish,” she said.
Teachers can sign up on her website and facilitate the conversations.
“How it came about is all about Nedda and Nedda's background, and her family overseas in Iran, and recognizing that there aren't that many differences between humans in one place and humans in another place,” Bursi said.
Throughout her high school career, Besharat has brought people together. She’s also the driving force behind the school’s Science Olympiad team. She credits teachers at Pewaukee for helping fuel her love of science.
“They're all really supportive and they made science fun,” she said.
Not only fun, but also her life’s focus.
“I'm going to UW Madison to study neurobiology, and I'll be on the pre-med track,” she said. “Honestly, ever since I was little, I would say I wanted to be a baby doctor, so a pediatrician.”
A passion for science and people, and she’s just getting started.
“Nedda is an amazing young lady. I cannot wait to see how she changes the world,” Bursi said.
If you’d like to learn more about Project Speac, just visit https://www.projectspeac.com/.
And if you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie at message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.