Last week, Principal Dr. Jennifer Bubser found herself stopping to read student-made posters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that adorned Strayer Middle School.
The artwork, compliments of Strayer’s National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), included six 24-page collaborative posters to create awareness and encourage service on Monday’s MLK Day Holiday. The work was so impressive it captured the attention of students passing by.
“When you see kids stopping to read them, that’s powerful,” Dr. Bubser said. “They want to make Strayer a better place.”
Dr. King’s inspiring words have been making their mark in classrooms throughout Quakertown Community School District on the days leading up to Monday’s holiday and on the day itself. Teachers have done a wonderful job of sharing Dr. King’s message and giving students a forum to think critically of what his message means today.
Student leaders in the NJHS came up with several great ideas that were adopted, including a common school-wide lesson in each Strayer class last Friday about how each student can provide the change the world needs. Conversations included what students were planning for MLK day. Are they volunteering? How are they giving back? If Dr. King were alive today, what issues would concern him? How do you think he would organize to solve them?
Students also developed a host of service ideas, including the creation of videos and crafts that were shared with each QCSD elementary school to teach students about Dr. King. NJHS advisors Stephanie Cucinotta and Becky Menchaca simply asked the students “How can we serve and the kids started coming up with really great ideas,” Mrs. Cucinotta said. “I’m honored and blessed to be part of that group.”
Assistant Principal Greg Lesher said “It’s pretty clear they’re very thoughtful and deliberate in everything they do. They’re doing this to be a catalyst for change. When you take a step back and see this, it’s just great.”
At the high school, the Social Justice Alliance (SJA) provided the creative impetus for ways to serve the community. On Monday afternoon, SJA advisors Bethany Fuller and Helena Li hosted two virtual Spark Talks on the topics of Systemic Racism and Giving Back. Speakers for the System Racism talk were Wayne Whitaker, assistant principal in the Bethlehem School District; Gabrielle Greene, Youth NAACP, Cheltenham Branch; and QCSD parents Susan Godshalk and Michael Swann. Speakers for Giving Back included Courtney Boehm, Quakertown Borough’s assistant parks and recreation coordinator; QCHS teacher Alaina Wert and student Amelia Cianciola.
“That was fantastic,” Assistant Principal Adam Dinney said following the Spark Talks. “You guys should be very proud of the turnout and the speakers. Fantastic!”
Megan Godshalk, an SJA leader, said the Spark Talks were the “most impactful” part of the day for her because of the speakers’ sharing their vulnerability. “It’s one thing to organize that and another to share their experiences with racism and the spirit of MLK,” Megan said. “It was a moment of pride for the school to have so many people come together for such a necessary discussion.”
Students have been participating in several service-related events, including making cards for residents of a local nursing home; recording videos of themselves reading a children’s book out loud in the spirit of MLK day. The videos were shared with QCSD’s elementary schools; and they collected donations for Valentine’s Day Gift Baskets for families in need.
“I’m so proud of our SJA members for their work this year,” Miss Li said. “During a school year that’s so unprecedented, these kids have carved out time from their already-packed schedules and shown up week in and week out, not only with the willingness and humility to learn more, but also with an open heart to serve the community around them. It’s so inspiring to be around young people who are so passionate about making a difference, and their spark is contagious. I’m really hoping that SJA can continue to grow, and we can continue to make an impact in the community!”
Mrs. Fuller added, “Our SJA students have come through with so much work above and beyond their other responsibilities in order to make this MLK Day of Service a success. They have worked on every aspect of it, from brainstorming to planning to creating and sending out announcements for our events. They have participated in the making of the cards for the nursing home residents, found speakers for the Spark Talks, created our slideshows for the Spark Talks, and many also participated in the Bucks and Montgomery County Teen Peace Summit on Sunday. It is inspiring and comforting to know that our future will be in the hands of young people with so much dedication and motivation to work toward social justice and equity.”
Megan, the SJA student leader, said the work for equity “is an ongoing battle. I’m certainly proud of the work we’ve done. It’s vital for students and teachers to continue the work for a safer, inclusive environment for all. We have to think what it will be like for kindergartners when they’re in our shoes one day. Each class must continue to have a better experience.”