South Western celebrates King with service
While other school districts closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to observe the federal holiday, South Western School District made the choice to stay open to do exactly that.
The district's Diversity Committee began discussing the option last year when exploring ways to further encourage learning about diversity at all grade levels. The committee decided remaining open and dedicating an entire day to service was a better way to honor King, as opposed to kids just staying home and possibly not doing anything on their own.
From there, each building's Diversity Committee worked over several months to come up with different activities to achieve this goal.
"There's not a kid who isn't going to be involved in a service activity in some way," Superintendent Barbara Rupp said.
On Monday, the district will have a day off, and though some parents took to the district's Facebook page to complain of the inconvenience this caused with planning for day care, Rupp and other administrators believed staying open on the federal holiday would be a better way to talk about diversity and community service, two very important aspects of King's life.
"That's a part of learning: learning how to be a good citizen in this country," Rupp said.
Service projects varied between buildings and age groups. At Baresville Elementary School, younger students were paired up with older students throughout the day to foster a sense of leadership in the older students. Together they worked on projects such as making puzzles for children in hospitals and writing letters to Olivia's House, a place for grieving children who might have lost parents or other guardians.
Students at the elementary school also came together during their "special period," when they may participate in gym, art or music, to sing songs about unity and dance. During the special period, these students talked about symbols for peace, love and service, and how King exemplified these virtues.
At Manheim Elementary, students went to an assembly and talked about goals and hopes they had for the future. The students also partnered with high school students to begin a summer book loan at the elementary school. Because the elementary school is farther from the Hanover Public Library than other schools in the district, some students have difficulty getting books during the summer. The summer book loan project will alleviate that need.
At the high school, students had the opportunity to choose what type of service activity they were going to participate in. Some classes showed movies such as "Selma," "Remember the Titans" and "Freedom Writer" and had discussions on diversity and race. A guest speaker from Gettysburg College told students about how King's "I have a dream" speech came to fruition.
Other students got hands-on with their day. High school Principal Judy Berryman said a week or two ago, after students signed up for their activities, they met with the teachers who would be running them. As a group, teachers and students discussed how the service activities should run, what materials would be needed and who would supply them.
A group of students made scarves that will be sent to homeless shelters in York City. Students and teachers chipped in to supply the fabric, which also was used to create no-sew blankets for the overnight homeless shelters in Hanover.
Other students, such as 15-year-old freshman Brandon Augustine, brought in crafting supplies and made greeting cards to mail to retirement communities in the area.
"I thought it sounded cool," Brandon said. "I like to help out the elderly because I'm friends with a lot of elders."
Jennye Bekker, a 16-year-old junior who also signed up to create greeting cards, said she thought it was great that the district stayed open and emphasized service projects to remember King.
"The community does so much for us, it's nice to help them for a change," Jennye said.
Brianna Miller, a 16-year-old junior, signed up to write letters to active servicemen and veterans for her service activity. She enjoys communicating with those who serve the country, particularly because she plans to join the Coast Guard upon graduation.
"I'm writing to give them hope, to tell them they're appreciated," Brianna said. "I want them to know their sacrifices aren't taken for granted."
Rick Dellinger, a social studies teacher at the school, partnered with other teachers and students to send care packages overseas to the troops. His son is serving in Afghanistan, so they'll be sending boxes stuffed to the brim with chips, drink mixes and candy to his unit.
"I think (students) have to understand it is because of the young men and women who defended Martin Luther King's right to protest that he could do what he did," Dellinger said. "It's important they recognize they wouldn't have those rights without those men and women."
The service projects didn't only help the community outside the school. Some students spent the day painting murals on bare school walls to encourage diversity, service and school pride for years to come. Maddy Farley, a 15-year-old sophomore, decided to paint a quote on a wall: "Service to society is the rent we pay for living on this planet," by Joseph Murray. She said the quote spoke to her.
"I think it's good to spread positivity and happiness," Maddy said about the quote. "It's good to do the little things, because they add up."
Overall, Rupp and Berryman counted the day as a success, and building administrators in the district said they are looking forward to how they can continue to grow a service day like this in years to come. Berryman hopes that with a focus on service, students in the district will stay in the area and continue to improve it beyond graduation.
"There's this thought process that you have to leave your hometown," Berryman said. "There's a lot to offer here."