Lincoln Charter leaves kids with hope before holidays

Alyssa Pressler
York Dispatch

On Tuesday morning, Lincoln Charter School held its annual Hope Assembly for staff and students, and this year Principal Leonard Hart brought some "Juju" with him.

According to Hart, this is the fourth year the school has held the Hope Assembly, which is a holiday celebration for the students and staff of the charter school. Each year the assembly grows and changes, and this year it featured Hart doing the popular dance craze called "Juju on That Beat," which his students taught him. 

Art club members hold up painted canvases with the saying "I Believe", as a present to their principal Leonard S. Hart Sr. during the annual Hope Assembly Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 at Lincoln Charter School in York City. Amanda J. Cain photo

The assembly wasn't all about dancing, Hart explained between crowds of students coming up to hug him and say hi. He asks each student how they're doing today. "How's your mom doing," he asks one. Moments later, after another hug, he asks a student how a scrape on her face is healing. 

"It's healing good," he tells her before sending her off to sit with her class. "She fell walking home from school the other day. I brought her some cocoa butter to put on it," he explained. 

Throughout the month of December, the core value the school focuses on is hope, and Annie Clark, director of community outreach for the school, said the school focuses on hope as an action. Classes take the time to do different things for others that will bring them hope. The Hope Assembly is the culmination of their efforts. 

Clark said it is important for all students to be taught to have hope and give hope by doing good deeds, but it's particularly important for Lincoln Charter School, because the staff works a lot with urban students who might be struggling at home with any number of issues. Hart chimed in that while students at the assembly were excited, a lot of it was from nerves because they knew they wouldn't be in school during the holiday break. 

Earlier this week, Clark said one student who hadn't eaten anything all weekend came up to her. The school has since started sending food home with the child. This is just one example of why lessons in hope are imperative, Clark said. 

"If they don't have Lincoln, they don't have home," she said. "We want them growing up thinking they can make a difference in the community."

Representatives from the York County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the city fire department and the city police department were all present to receive letters and donations that were collected by classes in the school. 

Additionally, teachers are nominated by students for the Hope Award, which goes to six teachers throughout the school, but nominees are recognized, too. In order to be nominated, students have to write letters with examples of how individual teachers give them hope. The letters and a plaque are presented to the teachers, who need hope sometimes, too, Clark said. 

Sharon Cannon, left, hugs fifth-grader Brianna Maldonado, after Brianna nominated her for a Hope award, during the annual Hope Assembly Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 at Lincoln Charter School in York City. Amanda J. Cain photo

"Even when they don't want to get up, they think of the students and realize it matters if they're here or not," she said. 

Different classes of students presented special projects and performances they've worked on throughout the year at the assembly. Lincoln Charter Music and Poetry Club performed an a capella rap it wrote about being a Lincoln Lion, the school's mascot. The art club presented colorful signs it made that spell out "I Believe," something of a motto for the school. 

At the end of the assembly, as promised beforehand, Hart got onstage with a number of students and performed the much-anticipated "Juju on That Beat" dance with the entire school. Though he has a bad back and joked that his wife would be upset with him later that night, he loves doing it for the kids. 

"Anything for the kids," he said. "Sometimes we have to forget about ourselves for them."