When I retired from many cherished years as a full-time language arts teacher at Cohen Hillel Academy, I happily assumed the role of part-time social justice coordinator there. This new position provided me the opportunity to integrate the school’s philosophy of communal and global responsibility into students’ learning.
Through our social justice program, students were involved in a variety of projects that taught them that they can make a difference. Just this past year, students participated in the following valuable projects: preparing and serving lunch at My Brother’s Table in Lynn; harvesting vegetables at the Food Project in Lynn to provide food for needy people; celebrating holidays with seniors at the Jack Satter House in Revere; and leading programs for kindergarteners at the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere.
In our middle school, sixth and seventh graders were paired with peers from Salem Academy Charter School to participate in monthly Facing History meetings in conjunction with the Peabody Essex Museum. The culmination of their work and study will be an exhibit on the theme of Belonging and Belongings at the PEM on June 2.
Our fourth and fifth graders led our community in The Bandage Project. The goal of this national project is to collect 1.5 million bandages to represent children who perished in the Holocaust.
Since bandages are associated with healing, this project enables CHA students to join children from diverse backgrounds in an attempt to teach about tolerance and understand the enormous consequences of indifference and prejudice.
Our school year will end with a day of service at Cradles to Crayons in Boston, an organization that provides children in homeless or low-income situations with essential items. Students will collect items that are needed and bring them to the warehouse where they will volunteer for the morning.
There is no question that these remarkable and varied social justice experiences teach Cohen Hillel students the value of giving back to the community and empower them to know that individual actions can and do make a difference.
Karen Madorsky is Social Justice Coordinator at Cohen Hillel Academy.