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High School Principal's Corner — January 19, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Yesterday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a school community. We are thankful for God’s call to be a school that values all his children and works to restore the brokenness caused by the sin of racism.

Our faculty and staff’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee created a powerful program that included four lessons and discussion opportunities for our students.  See highlights of those lessons below. 

Lesson 1: “The Call to Love Our Neighbor” 

First period classes read this devotional put together by Mark VanderWerf, Chaplain, on the Good Samaritan. Mr. Lutke, Social Studies teacher, provides an “Introduction” to the DEI committee and talks about why Dr. MLK Jr. Day is important. 

Mr. Julian Newman, GRCS Director of Diversity and Leadership, discusses why past events and policies still affect America’s racial landscape today in his video “American History Mathematics.” Many students were surprised to learn that the civil rights movement did not take place that long ago and that many of our grandparents and parents were living during that time and when MLK was assassinated.

LaShone Manuel (Williams) is a former Learning Commons Aide at GRCHS and currently serves as the Career Coach for Education, Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Languages at Calvin University. She shared passionately about God’s “Call to Love Our Neighbor” regardless of our differences. 

Students were challenged with the following reflection questions:

  • What was MLK’s achievement? Why do we have MLK Day? 
  • What are some things advocates of the 20th-century civil rights movement would be proud of today?
  • What are some things advocates might be disappointed by today?

Lesson 2: “Which of our Neighbors Have Been Excluded?”

Calvin University Social Work Professor, Joseph Kuilema, shared how MLK spoke about much more than busing, voting rights, and school equality. He gives a powerful historical context showing the disparities in available housing and how that impacts families’ wealth for generations to come. Many students commented that learning more about redlining was very important in understanding our city.

Lesson 3: “Implicit Bias” 

In this lesson, teachers worked with students to better understand implicit bias, acknowledging that implicit bias is not racism. We all have biases, but that doesn’t make us racists. Students participated in some word activities that brought this to light and helped them understand how biases can lead to discrimination and racism. Teachers then presented students with eight scenarios that include real experiences of students of color (both current students and recent graduates). Students were then able to discuss how our implicit biases might lead to some of these difficult experiences for students of color.

Lesson 4: “Beyond MLK’s Dream” 

We recognize that our celebration of MLK Day will not address all the complexities of racial justice nor will it resolve issues our students of color face everyday on and off-campus. The purpose of our final lesson of the day, led by Dean of Student Life, Eric Taylor, is to continue the dialogue for restoration where necessary moving forward. In addition to what we’ve covered in this celebration, students are invited into deeper conversations during Focus Period sessions available throughout the semester that are hosted by the Youth Culture Club and Student Congress.



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