Schools celebrate diversity
STEVENSVILLE — Diversity is looking a little different thanks to students in Queen Anne’s County. On June 5, youth from Queen Anne’s County Public Schools who are committed to making a difference in their schools and community were recognized at Matapeake Middle School.
“Diversity for Life” is a way to carry the message of diversity forward, according to hosts and sponsors, Brad Engel, supervisor of Student Support Services and ombudsman for QACPS; John Queen, transition coordinator; and the Queen Anne’s County Multi-Cultural Proficiency Committee. The event was also supported by Chesapeake Helps and the Character Counts program.
“This is the kind of event that brings people together,” said Engel, “We love all of our children in Queen Anne’s County, and this event highlighted the great diversity our students.”
Engel said they wanted to carry the message of diversity forward, the students nominated by faculty for their leadership in making their school and community a more accepting and friendly environment were asked to share their stories with us and are great examples of leadership and character in our schools.
The reception recognized the following students from schools throughout the county: Abi Altamirano, Chloe Boggs, Gregory Couch, Taquan Courtney, Katie Perez Galan, Ricardo Gonzalez, Megan Hammond, JaLyn Hicks, Jiyah Hollis, Claudia Jensen, Ke’Juan Johnson, Kareema Jones, Christian Matthews, Syrus McGowan and Jurnee Wilson.
“How proud I am of the work we are doing in Queen Anne’s County,” Interim Superintendent Greg Pilewski told the students being recognized, “to draw attention to what makes QA great ... our diversity makes it great ... enhances our school system and community, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
The students present had a chance to thank those adults in their lives who had inspired them and to share how they were making a difference in their surroundings. Many shared how influential their parents, granparents, teachers and coaches were.
Syrus McGowan, a student at Sudlersville Middle school, said, “All I can do is continue to work hard and defy stereotypes in the classroom and community.”
Otto Jacobs, a 7th-grader at Matapeake Middle School, was recognized for his caring and inclusion of students with disabilities, showing that diversity is also about including others not only based on their color, but also other differences.
Student leader of the Sudlersville Elementary Eagle Squad, Ricardo Gonzalez was nominated for his leadership ability. His teacher said he is a great leader on the playground at recess and organizes soccer games with his peers of diverse backgrounds and is a student leader in supporting conflict resolution.
A fifth-grader at Grasonville Elementary, Claudia Jensen was able to help a new student who spoke Spanish and very little English. Claudia, who had spent time living abroad in Spain was very fluent in Spanish, volunteered to help translate for her to help her with the routines, procedures and directions during her first several weeks of school. Claudia’s willingness to help made this other student’s transition to GES a little easier, said GES staff.
Stevensville Middle School Principal Kevin Kintop nominated Ke’Juan Johnson. Ke’Juan is just one of those guys that gets along with everyone. Academically, athletically .... it doesn’t matter. Everyone likes him and he genuinely treats everyone the same, said Kintop’s nomination.
Another student at SES, Katie Perez Galan is a thirdgrader and representative for the Student Government Association. Her teacher said she nominated Katie because, while many thirdgrade Hispanic students are welcoming and kind to Spanish-speaking newcomers, in general, she said she observed that they do not reach out to students who are not Hispanic. They rarely step out of their cultural groups when on the playground for recess or when they are given the choice of classmates with whom to partner for class, PFY, or schoolwide activities. Katie works with students of all backgrounds and speaks for everyone in her class when she is representing them in SGA meetings and works effectively with others to achieve small group goals successfully.
Gregory Couch-Purpose, Bayside Elementary, created a project named Project Linus. It involves collecting blankets for children who are in the hospital to provide comfort to them. His effort to bring inclusion to students who are physically ill and representation of the Character Counts pillars was the reason he was nominated.
Student Taquan Courtney shared this thought, “Diversity may not be the hardest thing for society to be with, but the most dangerous thing for society to be without.” Christian Mathews also reflected on the subject, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.”
Jurnee Wilson, a student at Centreville Middle School, was commended for her natural leadership and ability to focus on her own personal development and ignore all drama that may be going on around her. She understands that with diversity comes a wealth of different experiences and knowledge, her nomination said.
Megan Hammond started a Diversity Club at Kent Island High School called We the People. An interest meeting is planned before the end of the school year, in an effort to open the after school club to more members this fall. She said the group will be a place to learn about and appreciate other cultures and to unite all people no matter what race, gender, religion, ethnicity and age. Hence the name We the People. Hammond said that she hopes to encourage more than just tolerance of other groups, but also an understanding that we are all the same, while sharing and celebrating our different cultures. Too often, she said, we don’t really try to find out who people are ... we let our color define us.
“These students make it a priority to include others and stand up for others. I am so proud of the 16 honorees for receiving this award,” said Engel.
Eric Daniels and Brad Engel lead the crowd in a rendition of “Stand by Me”.
Students from Queen Anne’s County Public Schools are recognized June 5 for their efforts in being good leaders and promoting inclusiveness.
Celebrating diversity in Queen Anne’s County at Matapeake Middle School, June 5.