QCSD celebrates MLK Day of Service

About 250 stu­dents and 25 teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors packed the Quakertown Community High School cafe­te­ria this morn­ing and heard from a dynam­ic speak­er before head­ing out to var­i­ous parts of Bucks County and the Lehigh Valley to serve their fel­low cit­i­zens.

The district’s sec­ond Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was a won­der­ful moment for those seek­ing to make a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence on oth­ers. And it began with a one-hour pre­sen­ta­tion by Dr. Veirdre Jackson, an award-winning author, edu­ca­tor, and entre­pre­neur who is rec­og­nized as a lead­ing edu­ca­tion­al train­er in trauma-informed prac­tices and cul­tur­al com­pe­tence.

“When a school dis­trict allows young peo­ple to take lead­er­ship, the stu­dents believe they can have an impact and begin to think about who they can be impact­ing,” said Dr. Jackson, the CEO/Founder of Living Strong Consulting LLC and the Co-Founder of Fresh Fountain of Life Counseling and Wellness. “These young peo­ple are invest­ed in the process and they are empow­ered. Results can hap­pen in a peer to peer con­nec­tion. Young peo­ple have the pow­er to influ­ence.”

Dr. Jackson said inter­ac­tions between peo­ple can be pow­er­ful with life-altering con­se­quences, adding that “while we are prod­ucts of our past, we don’t have to be pris­on­ers to it.” She urged stu­dents not to be silent or apa­thet­ic if they see some­thing wrong, and often spoke of Dr. King’s mes­sage and of the impor­tance of being “authen­tic, empa­thet­ic spir­its.”

“We must look past our dif­fer­ences and allow our­selves to see each oth­er. As you go out into the com­mu­ni­ty, look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to close the gap between you and some­one else. I ask you, ‘what is going to be your lega­cy?’ ”

Students said they felt the impact of Dr. Jackson’s words.

“She was so inspir­ing. Everything she said relat­ed to my life,” said Angelina Becker. “I will take this with me when I step out­side of school and it will stick with me.”

Riya Sembhi said she “loved” Dr. Jackson’s pre­sen­ta­tion. “She made me more aware of the dif­fer­ent class­es and social struc­ture. This was enlight­en­ing.“

High school teach­ers Bethany Fuller and Jen Stover, Peggy Smith of Trumbauersville Elementary School and Strayer Middle School assis­tant prin­ci­pal Kim Finnerty worked to devel­op the district’s sec­ond MLK Day event.

Students had sev­er­al ser­vice options to choose from. The 10 pos­si­bil­i­ties includ­ed help­ing at the Sixth Street Shelter in Allentown, Hope ReStored Thrift Store, Phoebe Richland Retirement Community, First Church of the Brethren, Trumbauersville Food Pantry, Pennridge FISH, NOVA Thrift Shop and LifePath. Strayer Middle School stu­dents also host­ed ele­men­tary school stu­dents with sto­ry­time, and oth­ers worked in the high school Cyber Commons on fill­ing Easter eggs for Quakertown Borough and mak­ing Valentine’s Day cards for nurs­ing home res­i­dents.

High school assis­tant prin­ci­pal Jennifer Carolla said she was proud of the plan­ning done by teach­ers and the enthu­si­asm to serve shown by stu­dents. She also praised Dr. Jackson’s pre­sen­ta­tion. “It’s a hum­bling feel­ing to reach inside your­self and have self-reflection because that’s when true change occurs and you can make an impact on some­one else’s life. That’s what this day is about. Let’s pay it forward.”