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A little winter weather would not deter Rowland Hall’s Lower School students from having their voices heard. They buttoned up their coats and gathered in the lobby of the McCarthey Campus. Led by Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, they marched out into the falling snow, holding colorful posters high and chanting:
What do we want?
When do we want it?
A month-long chapel program in the Lower School culminated in the Changemaker March Wednesday, January 25. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students learned about the concept of a changemaker, described by Principal de Jesus as “someone who recognizes a problem or issue in their community and takes action to address it.” They studied Dr. King and other changemakers throughout history, including Gandhi and Rachel Carson, before turning the lens inward and asking themselves what they could do to better the world around them.
In preparation for the march, students identified a personal issue of concern, and then created posters advocating for action. Subjects ranged from saving endangered species, to ending homelessness, to improving air quality and cleaning up our oceans. Some students devoted extra time to causes they care about: fourth-grader Jojo Park raised $175 for the Navajo Water Project. “It made me feel good because I helped other people,” Jojo reflected. “Kids can make a difference, too, instead of always adults.” Her sense of empowerment is exactly what Principal de Jesus and Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund were aiming for—that students would use the changemaker concept to share their dreams for change, and channel that energy into action.
Fifth-graders Lucy Wallin and Katie Kim also found inspiration as changemakers, giving up time at recess to pick up litter at school. “We started picking up trash because we have to take a stand,” Katie said. “We noticed apple slices, trash bags, and other garbage, and it’s not good for the Earth,” Lucy added. Katie and Lucy recognized that a small personal sacrifice could have an immediate impact on their community—a lesson Mr. Hoglund aims to teach all Rowland Hall students. “I believe deeply that everyone is capable of leadership,” Mr. Hoglund said. “If we can help young people identify their passions at an early age, at the same time we are honing their skills, this marriage of passion and skills is the recipe for deep meaning in their lives.”
Dozens of parents attended the Changemaker March to witness students’ energy and pride. After the morning’s events, the student posters were hung throughout the Lower School to celebrate their work and serve as a reminder that through hope and action, everyone can make a difference, regardless of age. Mr. Hoglund was extremely pleased with how the Changemaker program concluded. “It is our mission to inspire students to lead ethical and productive lives,” he said. “That morning, those smiling faces, braving the snow, calling for their communities to be better, we saw our mission in action.”
View the full Changemaker photo gallery here.