Students inspire on MLK Day

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.”