During February, students across the nation celebrate diversity and learn about the legends and heroes of Black History. At Julia Landon College Prep, students write essays and biographies, develop History Fair projects, compose and deliver reports on the daily announcements and reflect on the great leaders who made progress in the face of overwhelming adversity.
This year, Social Studies teacher Sharon Thomas and PE Coach Kelly Hasty decided to add a deeper layer of enrichment for their students. They saw a common thread running through all of these heroic figures. Black leaders in education, arts and sciences, politics and justice, and local communities share a tremendous capacity for giving of themselves. It is difficult and dangerous to stand against the common tide. The great leaders of Black History gave for the benefit of others. They gave their time, energy, passion and compassion and in many cases gave their lives, so that other people, complete strangers, might be enriched and empowered and truly free.
Mrs. Thomas and Coach Hasty wanted to give their students, at least a taste of the giving spirit. They drew on that spirit by recruiting special student volunteers to promote the February Canned Food Drive here on campus. The students took to the street each morning and afternoon to give their time and energy for the benefit of others. They made and carried signs, not of protest, but of encouragement, in celebration of giving. They shouted, sang, chanted and rallied with remarkable enthusiasm. According to one student “there was the occasional person who stared at us like we were crazy, but… I think that when you volunteer for something, you need to be enthusiastic.”
Kids at this age are under a tremendous pressure to appear normal. On a few occasions, reasonably well meaning peers approached the energetic volunteers to ask them what they were doing waving signs around and for goodness sake “Why?” It takes courage to do something good and perseverance to keep at it when people question you.
It is a simple enough thing to support a canned food drive. Our volunteers didn’t change the way the world thinks and operates like their heroes from Social Studies class did. They didn’t face the degree of adversity they have been studying in class. They did, however, participate in real and good work. They stood outside day after day because they want to help people. They learned that they are brave enough and strong enough to do so. They will have to use their bright young imaginations to reflect on the lessons they learned, and try to begin to understand how much those great leaders gave and how hard it was.