Option 2: What are some ways to support and care for each member of your community? How do you help out when someone is in need? How do you make newcomers feel welcome in your community?
Aviva Wright, Grade 6, Sidwell Friends School
Ruby Bridges and I live on different strands of the spider web.
She was a brave black six-year-old girl who integrated schools.
Her heart must have pounded,
like a zebra’s, when chased by lions.
She let nothing stop her to be herself.
I will let nothing stop me to be myself.
I will find my place, in this new space.
Driving up the driveway to my old school,
my eyes squinted as I arrived at a sunlit castle.
Kids in lines, filing down the hall like they were on a track.
A cozy corner where I knew every nook and cranny.
Tall, short, boys, girls, white and black.
Not like at William Frantz Elementary School, Ruby’s school.
This was the first strand of the web I have been on.
As I walk up the steps to my new school,
a huge wooden and glass, modern building.
A swarm of kids rush down the hall like they are in a race.
A big place where I didn’t know anything or anyone.
Tall, short, boys, girls, white and black.
Not like at William Frantz Elementary School, Ruby’s school.
Now I am on a new strand, the old one gone.
A new place is like an untouched spider web,
So many different directions to move in, and
new things for me to explore.
As I grasp on, as I cling to the nearest strand,
I am moving like a spider from place to place.
Uncertain as to where I am going,
So many paths for me to discover.
This poem is about going to a new school. It was hard for me in the beginning, but I stayed true to myself and I made new friends. When I was at my old school, I tried hard to reach out to a new student. When someone is new to your community, it really helps them if you welcome them into your group. Someone can be in need of feeling welcome and sometimes it can be hard to help them. How can you keep your old friends and make new ones? That is something I struggle with, and I still do not know the full answer.
My metaphor is a spider web because in a spider web there is a center with many strands coming out of it. When you go somewhere new and different, you have a choice of which way to go. You can hang out with different people, and eat with different kids at lunch. Also, depending on the experiences you have, they can lead you to different beliefs and values, which can make you a different person. Depending on which choices you make, you can become a different person, but you can always crawl back and start over. In my poem, when I say, “As I grasp on, as I cling to the nearest strand,” what I mean is you have to experiment with different strands by climbing from one way to another. How do you know what your place is? I don’t know the full answer to this either, but I will keep trying to discover the answer, by traveling on different strands.
Community is like a spider web because a spider web is super strong and a community can be too. Spider webs can break, just like a community. Communities can also break when people are mean to others in their communities. Communities are elastic—they can expand to let new people in, but can also close in to fight as a group. One spider web makes a community, but many make a force.
Happy to Be There
Layla Dawit, Grade 6, Sidwell Friends School
“And so the boy climbed up the tree, and gathered her apples, and carried them away. And the tree was happy.” —Shel Silverstein in The Giving Tree
“Come on, Layla! We’re going now!” my mom said. “We’re dropping you off at Caleb’s house!”
My mom and dad were going to a fundraising event that would last late through the night, and they had decided to drop me off somewhere instead of leaving me alone in the house. I grinned, excited once again to see my God-brother. I walked quickly from the car to his door, a spring in my step, not taking time to enjoy the last hues of summer, soon to fade away. I was looking forward to spending time with him, as I would for all of the members of my Ethiopian community, and for me, that was worth more than those colors. I knocked, waiting expectantly, only to hear that he was with some of his friends at school, as it was their annual carnival. I hid a sigh as I entered, as I did not want to take away time from his friends, but I missed him.
Just then, I heard the sound of two pairs of footsteps coming from what seemed to be the garage door. They revealed themselves to be Caleb and his dad, Adane. He had heard that I had come over, and requested to leave his friends immediately to see me and spend time with me. I was overjoyed to see him, and touched that he had wanted to spend time with me over his friends.
From that day I knew that although I may not know soccer stats or who is on what team as well as he does, it was as if he were the tree and I the boy. Like the tree, he was happy to give me his time, his love, and his compassion; and like the boy, I embraced it. That’s what made a difference. That day I felt something nagging at me. Maybe it was the smile I gave him or the hug, radiating pure love from both of us, but I kept thinking about it over and over again: the fact that spending time with me was truly important to him. That day I knew that we were friends; and although “friends” is a general word, we were the closest kind, the kind that loves each other. We were like a little community of our own, a small part of the larger Ethiopian group.
I knew that this act of kindness had come from a bond that stretched back to childhood, to times we had spent together as members of the Ethiopian American community, a community that I have known for as long as I can remember. Endless pillow fights, attempts at the Ethiopian language, with laughter filling the room. A place where I can truly be myself, no secrets withheld. A comfortable place. A place where we are always there for each other, connected for life. Where we help each other in times of need, and repay with kindness. Never the tumbleweed, rolling away in a barren desert, for together, like the tree and the boy, we are happy. Always happy.
Out of the Snow
Ella Majd, Grade 6, Sidwell Friends School
I remember the first time I walked into my grandmother’s temple. It wasn’t the snow outside that left me frozen; it was what I saw inside. Beds, lined up in rows. Food and laughter and medical care. There was an overwhelming sense of relief that the homeless people gathered wouldn’t be making pillows of snow tonight. Kids, playing board games and reading to the homeless people, their smiles illuminating the entire room. Sounds of ripping paper, opening presents. It was Christmas, and no matter what religion you were, it was too cold and too sad to spend that time outside, alone. It didn’t matter to my grandmother, who had arranged the event, that this was a Christian holiday. It didn’t matter to her that these people weren’t Jewish. To her they were people—cold, hungry, sad, lonely people who deserved to be happy and healthy and warm.
At first I felt a little out of place. I don’t usually go to temple. I didn’t know these strangers. Within minutes, the contagious warmth and joy spread to me, and I ran around, reading and playing board games with everyone. They were all so kind, so jubilant, so thankful to be warm and safe. Some of them shared such sad stories, like one man who didn’t know where his four-year-old daughter or his wife was. I didn’t know what to say to him. He seemed thankful and lonely at the same time. Our company couldn’t fill the empty place for his family, but we were there to comfort him. At least he could pull the jacket we gave him around his shoulders, protected from the cold that cuts like swords, and think of them. Everyone in here was safe from the cold, under blankets and drinking hot chocolate. It was amazing.
Humanity is a community. Why do we sometimes act like it isn’t? My grandmother and her temple open up every year around the holidays for these people, and every year they come and eat and talk and laugh. It was a great feeling helping at the temple. I felt as if I really was part of something bigger, like a school of fish swimming through the ocean. It’s beautiful to see people helping other people and caring for them for nothing except their happiness in return, as if they could put happiness in a box and wrap it like one of the presents on the floor. The homeless people were there for each other, making them laugh and hugging. They were all putting aside their troubles for each other. They were kind, caring, loving, and genuinely curious about who I was as a person. Those things, to me, are the building blocks of community.
A Sixth-grade Quaker View of the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Miller Gentry-Sharp, Grade 6, Greene Street Friends School
The Syrian refugees should be let into the United States. The United States is a large community in itself. There is no reason not to allow them in. In this essay, I will talk about why it is necessary for them to be let in for the grand community. The refugees can bolster the economy, add diversity to the communities, and from a humanistic standpoint, it is the right thing to do. The refugees should be allowed into America because allowing them in is important to building a safe, loving community.
The community aspect of the crisis is very clear. We need to not only accept them but welcome them. The principle of community is that everyone is included. We are closing our doors to people who have gone through so much suffering. Your pre-k teacher always told you to include everyone. Well, this is what the United States and the European countries need to do now. Not letting the refugees in is downright exclusion.
Welcoming the refugees is important to building community in the United States. We need to prove that everyone is welcome into our community. The refugees will also add a lot of diversity to our community by giving us culture that we have not experienced before. Our communities would change and grow if we accept the refugees. Welcoming the refugees is a way that we can build our community. The other Quaker testimonies also provide reasons to let in the Syrian refugees.
The second Quaker testimony is peace. There is a lot of turmoil around the refugee crisis that will only end if we let all of the refugees into our country and welcome them. Peace requires everyone to be safe. The only way the refugees will be safe is if they are given proper shelter and support. This is another reason why the refugees should be welcomed. The refugee crisis started due to a war. Only a peaceful solution will solve the crisis.
The Quaker testimony of equality is very important. The idea that while we are sleeping in beds inside warm houses, waking up one morning each year to many knick knacks and toys sitting under a tree in our house, traveling across the world for fun, there are others sleeping in tents with almost nothing, waiting for some rich politician to announce whether or not they are allowed to travel on a large, open area of land is atrocious. This is equality: letting everyone have an opportunity to succeed no matter who they are or what their backgrounds are.
Integrity is another Quaker testimony that means doing the right thing. We are in a very important position right now. It is obvious what the countries must do. We have to welcome the refugees. If we don’t, we will always be remembered for the time we refused to do the right thing in an important situation.
The final Quaker testimony is stewardship. Good stewardship is being a good steward to the earth and others. Letting in the refugees is being good stewards of our smaller communities, humanity, and our fellow human beings. Letting the refugees in is being good stewards to our communities by allowing them to build and grow. It is being good stewards to humanity by improving the lives of millions. It is being good stewards to our fellow human beings by giving them a place to sleep that’s not a tent on the border of a rich nation.
In conclusion, the refugees should be welcomed because welcoming the refugees is important to building community, promoting peace, maintaining equal rights, and being good stewards. Letting the refugees in is also the right thing to do. Think about what life would be like as a refugee, sitting on the border of a rich country, waiting to see if they will let you walk through.
Student Voices 2016
- Option 1: What are the important elements of building a loving, safe, and supportive community?
- Option 2: What are some ways to support and care for each member of your community?
- Option 3: What happens when there are differences or conflicts within a community?
- Option 4: Share an example of a community working together to accomplish a greater goal.
- Thanks: Thank you to all of the participants of the third annual Student Voices Project!
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