Unity Reed HS Students Teach Black History Month Lesson to Gainesville MS students

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Unity Reed High School senior presents information about Poet Amanda Gorman over Zoom lesson.

Unity Reed High School students provided a unique Black History Month lesson to Gainesville Middle School students via Zoom.

This crossover lesson connected the high school students to their younger middle school audience in a different way. Gainesville Middle students waited patiently for a presentation given by the Student Activities Leadership Council (SALC) students, senior Colin Ropella, senior India Martin, and sophomore Jacob Johnson-Walton.

Unity Reed High students remarked on how impressed they were to see all of the Gainesville Middle students’ cameras on and ready to participate. They began with a PowerPoint presentation and stated the purpose of the lesson was to talk about and celebrate Black History Month and showcase amazing young Black people who have achieved great accomplishments. Ropella showed a photo of Martin Luther King Jr., and asked Gainesville students to identify the person in the image and a famous speech he wrote. Students were quick to recognize him, and other famous Black figures, such as Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey.

The SALC students then delved into lesser-known younger key figures. They highlighted Mary Copeny, a 13-year-old-activist from Flint, Michigan who raised critical awareness about the water crisis in her community. Copeny wrote a letter to President Obama about the water crisis that led to him visiting Flint, and approving relief money. A key point Johnson-Walton highlighted to Gainesville students was, “It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Martin emphatically agreed stating, “Don’t feel like you can’t make a difference because you’re young.”

Unity Reed students continued, describing Yara Shahidi, an actress on the show “Black-ish,” who has used her public platform to advocate for increased diversity in Hollywood, and the education of girls across the country. They spoke about Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, and her widely acclaimed poem, “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country,” read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Finally, the SALC students encouraged their audience to find ways to stay involved even when Black History Month has passed by continuing their self-education about racial injustices, making an effort to support Black-owned businesses, and writing letters to government officials about important issues.

Gainesville students were then invited to play a trivia game to test their newfound knowledge. Eighth grade student Lauren McCall won the game by getting 11 out of 11 questions right.

Gainesville Principal Catherine Porter-Lucas ended the Zoom call by thanking Unity Reed students for the unique Black History Month lesson, and several Gainesville students chimed in with their thanks as well before logging off.

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