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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 12, 2010

Ninth-grader on mission to change the world

By Dave Dondoneau

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Reggae artist Matisyahu, center, with Reece Foy, left, and Zach Busekrus.

Zach Busekrus

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Somebody owes Zach Busekrus a new video recorder, and this is oneIolani freshman who should never be without one.

Zach isn't your typical ninth-grader. His vision is to change the world, starting with eliminating the genocide in Darfur. He wants to meet with President Obama and Congress to discuss how to do it, and he wants everyone to check out the video (http://bit.ly/a3DxNC) he and his friends entered for Olelo's Youth Xchange Video Competition to learn more about the hundreds of thousands of people being killed in Darfur.

Zach's not sure what the prize is if he wins, and quite frankly, he doesn't care. He's more concerned about spreading his message.

Iolani teacher Kimi Frith believes in him. She didn't know Zach before the school year, but after he transferred from St. John Vianney School in Kailua, he needed an adviser for the project, so he asked her.

"How could I say no to a kid with this vision?" Frith said. "His drive and passion drove me to help him. You know what's really cool?When the project was wrapping up he said, 'What do we do next? We can't just end it here.' So now we're going to have a bake sale in April to help raise money to build a school in Darfur. Other students are climbing on board."

It's hard not to get behind Zach's efforts. His video starts with scenes from the Holocaust and a voice-over from Betty Rothman of New Jersey, who tells of losing her fiance, friends and most of her family during the Holocaust and how the same mindless killing is happening again today in Darfur. Iolani teacher Allison Ishii, Rothman's granddaughter, set up the interview for Zach when Rothman came to town.

The interview was awesome, Zach said, but he inadvertently left the camera and the footage at a bus stop. When he called a friend and went to pick it up a few minutes later, it was gone.

"Someone scored a nice camera and an amazing interview," Zach said.

At the suggestion of his dad, Zach reinterviewed Rothman over the phone and added clips from Web sites that allow use of Darfur footage for educational purposes. The icing on the cake was meeting Matis-yahu when he came to town to play a concert. A family friend got Zach inside Road Runner Music Hall at Dole Cannery to meet him, and Matisyahu gave the students permission to use "One Day" as the video's backdrop. (He also appears at the end of the video). Being new to Iolani, Zach put out a shout on Facebook to fellow students, asking them to join the project. He got about 10 responses and some new friends.

All he asks is you share the link and spread the word. Darfur is calling.

"It's such a great project. We're hoping to show it to every class at Iolani, and we'd love to get other schools to view it," Frith said. "This wasn't a school project; it was his. Zach is a kid who is making a difference."

Yes, he is.

So, can somebody please return his video camera?