Advocating for the Education and Development of Girls

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, a global celebration of youth advocates who advance the rights of and opportunities for girls everywhere.

Baldwin’s mission is to develop our girls into confident young women who have the vision, global understanding and the competency to make significant and enduring contributions to the world. We celebrate the power of being a girl every day and consider it our responsibility to advocate for girls in our community, regionally and globally.

In Lower School, students enthusiastically participate in the Educate a Girl campaign, an annual fundraiser that benefits girls’ education around the world. Unlike other fundraisers, faculty encourage students to find creative ways to raise money, instead of simply asking their parents for help, leading to a variety of unique entrepreneurial endeavors, including bake sales, selling handmade artistic creations and giving out hugs at Baldwin events. This program also opens the door to critical conversations at home, giving our girls the opportunity to talk to their parents about those who don’t have access to quality education.

Emelie Wilkes, one of our second grade teachers, has been leading this project for over 10 years. “In its first year my class raised more than $1,000 on its own for an orphanage in Kenya,” she says. “For the past two years, the Lower School has raised over $10,000! To me, there is nothing more valuable than teaching our amazing, bright and gifted girls the importance of giving back. So many girls around this world are held back by circumstances out of their control. If we can help one child, that’s a start.”

All of the funds raised this year will be donated to Women’s Campaign International to directly benefit girls’ education. Specializing in transitional states and post-conflict regions around the world, Women’s Campaign International equips women and girls with the skills and support needed to transform their lives and communities.

Compassion, respect and responsibility are three of Baldwin’s core values, and all are demonstrated by these efforts, as well as in our curriculum. Our priority is not only to advocate for girls around the world but to continue to find new ways to advocate for our own students. In the Middle School, there’s a targeted focus on social and emotional development through lessons on identity, building empathy, healthy relationships, mindfulness and digital citizenship.  

“While one of our goals is for our students to do well academically, it’s just as important to make sure they are prepared to navigate the ever-shifting social landscape in life by giving them the tools, the language and a safe space to learn and grow,” says Middle School Librarian Lauren Friedman-Way.

Middle School faculty focus on the five core competencies of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning): self-management (managing emotions); self-awareness (recognizing emotions, values, strengths and challenges); social awareness (developing empathy and understanding); relationship skills (developing healthy, positive relationships and team-building); and responsible decision-making. The goal is to give Baldwin students the support and skills they need to become women who make a positive impact in all parts of their lives – from the classroom and the playing fields to their homes and local communities.

Upper School Environmental Science Capstone Project: Our Students Become Teachers

Written by Maggie Epstein, Science Teacher

In honor of Earth Day, and as a capstone project for their senior elective, the Environmental Science class took on the challenge of becoming experts on an environmental issue and then educating and acting on that issue as well. Throughout the year, the class has focused on the depletion and sustainability of common resources. And while we span the breadth of the subject, there is rarely time to go as deep into specific issues as we may like. So, during the month of April each student chose a topic that they were personally motivated to address. In class and outside of school, they researched and found small solutions to the problem. Most excitedly, this was by far everyone’s favorite part of the project, they were tasked with teaching about their topic to a lower school class.

This was the first year I attempted this project (at this scale at least) and it was daunting. The seniors would have to budget their time and be on their own as “teachers” when it was their turn. However, as soon as the first lesson happened in mid-April, I knew it was going to be an amazing experience. Mary Rose Shields ‘18 and Haley Smith ’18 hadn’t just prepared lectures about deforestation and pollinators, they arrived in gardening clothes with soil and seeds, beaming with enthusiasm. Their lesson highlighted the importance of bees and trees within the ecosystem. They got their hands dirty with the Kindergartners, planting, teaching and being just amazing role models for the younger girls.

Similarly, Emma Bradley ‘18 and Gabbi Pettineo ’18 got the other Kindergarten class to rally behind polar bears. A visit from Winnie got the girls excited, but what really thrilled them was getting to experience how blubber insulates the bears and is vital for their survival. Learning about the importance of blubber was key to understanding how the bears are threatened when they have to travel further and further for food. Less food and more walking means less blubber and a very cold bear. The girls coated their hands in simulated “blubber” to test this theory. Their “blubber” covered hands stayed perfectly warm even in a bowl of ice water – some very fun hands-on science for sure!

Earth Day is a global day of awareness and Rhea Li ’18 was able to share her knowledge of Mandarin with the 1st grade – teaching them Earth themed vocabulary! The girls in her class were all joyful and eager participants leaning to say Earth, ocean, the highest mountain and more. Even the Pre-K was on board for an Earth day lesson. Kate Park ’18 and Dagny DeFratis-Benway ’18 taught them about the size and importance of the oceans. The girls had fun sorting aquatic animals and making their own watery “Earth” to take home. I know their lesson was a success as my own Pre-K daughter came home and told me how “litter is dangerous for all the ocean animals.”

Not all the lessons were quite as sunny though. Melia Hagino ’18 tackled water inequity with the 5th grade; Emily Thompson ’18 got 1st graders to consider their carbon footprints; Natalia Schafer ’18 and Julia Love ’18 warned about the dangers facing the coral reefs. Though these topics were complex, students were still engaged and excited for the experience. The seniors commented on the impressive level of intellectual curiosity from Lower School students and also on the incredible empathy they encountered on their visits.  Maya Hairston ’18 and Miyanni Stewart ’18 were concerned at first that Ms. Fitzpatrick’s 4th grade would be too young to understand the concept of environmental racism. They were confident though that the topic was one they wanted to address and they did so with incredible maturity and thoughtfulness. They had the girls participate in a roll play game that modeled the disparity among the environments of  some communities inhabited by people of color. They spoke to them about the causes and consequences of this injustice and allowed them to share their own thoughts as well. The experience was powerful for all involved. Maya reflected, “I was worried at first that this topic would be too much for fourth graders, but they handled it so well. I feel so honored to have presented in front of a class of such smart young thinking girls. I look forward to seeing them in the halls from now on!”

Beyond just learning and teaching, our class took action. In one month, the Environmental Science class, collectively,  raised money for the Natural Resource Defense council and the United Way, created an Instagram to promote reducing carbon emissions (you can follow it @iamparisca), signed numerous petitions, planted two trees, created a pollinator garden, reduced the flow on their toilets and more!

Watching students combine what they’ve learned with their myriad talents and skills was inspiring. I hope to not just continue this project but expand it to include even more of the Lower School and possibly the larger community in the future. As Haley noted in her reflection, “At the end when we were outside planting, a bee flew by and none of the girls flinched. They watched as it flew around and one girl said, ‘Don’t worry bee! My flower for you will be ready soon!’ This was an adorable moment that made me realize I had done my job.” I have to agree with her. As I saw all the photos of the girls from Pre-K on up to my class of 2018 smiling, learning and working together, I absolutely felt the same joy.

See more of our favorite photos on The Baldwin School’s Smugmug.

Middle School Service Trip: Discovering Marine Conservation

During Baldwin’s Spring Break, 12 Middle School students traveled to Key Largo, Florida, for a week of activities involving service, culture and exploration.  The group worked with Marine Design Lab to learn about marine biology and conservation.  Grace Halak ’22, Blake Landow ’22, Thea Rosenzweig ’22, Sarah Ying ’22 and Elva Chen ’22 discussed their experiences:

“When I first heard about the Rustic Pathways service trip to Key Largo, I immediately began imagining what I would tell my parents that night to convince them to sign me up. I had received many positive reviews from my peers who went on the New Orleans trip two years ago, so I was incredibly excited when Baldwin offered another Rustic Pathways experience, especially since it relates to marine biology, which fascinates me. I had always thought it was wonderful that Baldwin offered so many opportunities for service as a student, but environmental service had always been my favorite. This trip promised that and more: a week of snorkeling, experimenting and collecting environmental data in Key Largo with MarineLab. The trip sounded like the perfect blend of education, service and fun, and it did not disappoint me.”

“This trip was one of the best and most exciting weeks of my life. We got to go snorkeling almost every day, which gave us so many wonderful opportunities to explore and learn about marine life. Our first day’s activities included learning about coral reef ecology and then later getting to experience the reefs ourselves. Later that evening, we had a fish identification class where we learned how to discern different types of fish, and engaged in a water quality lab. This prepared us for the next day when we headed out to the reef again. This time it was so much more enjoyable and compelling because we knew exactly what we were looking at. During the few days we had left, we enjoyed a seagrass ecology class, snorkeled in the mangroves, took part in a coastal clean-up, participated in a micro-plastics lab and an invertebrate identification lab, referred to as the ‘rock shake’, in which we observed minuscule marine creatures living on algae growing on rocks from the ocean. On our final day at MarineLab, we went on one last snorkel in the mangroves on the bay, and then we headed back to Miami. It is incredible how much everyone learned on this trip and it felt good to help our environment in the process. There was an exhilarating adventure ahead of us every day. I was extremely satisfied with Rustic Pathways and MarineLab’s program, and I can say the same for the rest of the group. I am grateful for the opportunity, and the only thing I would change would be to make the experience last longer!”

“On this trip, I learned a lot about marine life and our environment. We had lessons on the coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves, fish and how humans affect these things. Now that the trip is over, I am more aware of my actions that affect the environment. At MarineLab, the group participated in a micro-plastics lab, in which we observed the amount of plastic in a sample of water from the boat dock. The results were staggering. I learned about statistics and how the ratio of micro-plastics to plankton was very large, and how plastic in the ocean is detrimental to animals and their habitats. This lab and the whole experience made me think about things I can do to help, even if it is just changing a small part of my life.”

Team Up Philly & Baldwin – Empowering Young Women

DSC_0002Torrie Smith ’20 talks about her experience with Team Up Philly and how she’s helping students at The Baldwin School partner with this organization to inspire and empower young women.

Team Up Philly is an organization designed to empower girls from underserved areas in Philadelphia. By promoting individualism and unity, they teach the girls to become independent while also working with one another.

I originally saw Team Up Philly at the tennis courts where I train every week. Next I saw them at Ludington library every Thursday afternoon for months while I was doing homework there. After seeing them many times, it seemed such a meaningful experience to bond with these girls. I eventually was introduced to their executive director, Marian Fischer Pearlman who helped me to become a tutor. During my freshman year, I attended Thursday sessions at the library from 4:00-5:15 whenever I could where I would help the girls complete homework, work on a special project, or play fun math games. As a very avid tennis player, I also wanted to help out with the tennis aspect. I talked with Marian and ended up volunteering as a coach at Team Up Philly’s tennis camp this past summer. I watched them progress over the course of the six week program.

After working very closely with Team Up Philly, I began to think about my time at Baldwin and realized that there were so many similarities between the two places. Team Up Philly is an organization that inspires girls to reach their full potential. Since Team Up Philly and Baldwin had many similarities, both designed to empower young women, I thought it would be a perfect fit to partner the two organizations.

The girls from Team Up Philly come to Baldwin once a month. Through this partnership, all of the girls are able to create long-lasting bonds with one another. We do fun activities like sports, arts and crafts, and games. During our first session, members of Baldwin’s tennis team instructed and played tennis with the girls. Some players were brand new to the game so they were taught the fundamentals, while others had played much more so they played games with one another and Baldwin girls. Overall it was an extremely fun and rewarding experience. Our second session was devoted to crafts and games. Some of the Team Up Philly girls decorated holiday cookies with the help of Baldwin girls and others played fun games like Jenga and Taboo. In the future, we plan to continue with games, sports and crafts to continue linking the two organizations.

Strutting for Scoliosis

Lindsay Gordon '17 Designer of 'Strut for Scoliosis'
Lindsay Gordon ’17 Designer of ‘Strut for Scoliosis’

Lindsay Gordon ’17 describes her journey with scoliosis and her desire to make a difference for other patients like herself.  She has designed a clothing line with all proceeds benefiting Setting Scoliosis Straight.

The beginning.
At the age of twelve, I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine greater than ten degrees. It affects 2-4% of children, especially girls. My spine bends at the top in one direction and the bottom in another, creating an S shaped curve. My curves are considered to be in the extreme range and therefore required me to wear a back brace for twenty hours each day for over three years.

How did you come up with this product?
Ever since my journey concluded, I have been keen on making a positive change for patients like myself. I brainstormed many different ways to raise money. I contemplated races or fundraisers, but I was determined to find something more creative. I wanted to inspire teens and spread awareness for the cause that is so close to my heart. So, I integrated my love for fashion, my enthusiasm for service, and my curiosity in business as a way to give back. I designed a workout wear line called Strut for Scoliosis. All of the proceeds are donated to Setting Scoliosis Straight, a nonprofit organization that is researching how to eradicate this disease.

How did you make this product and how do you sell it?
Along with the help of a legging distributor, I was able to draft several designs before coming up with my final products. I handle all of the social media marketing and accounting. I created a website where I can sell my clothing line to my family and friends across the country. Also, my clothing line is featured in two stores, OMG Salon in Gladwyne and Fashion Statement in Bryn Mawr. I sell my products using an app on my phone as well. I have made shipments to places as far as Canada and California.

Did any inspiration come from Baldwin? How are your friends/family involved?
Being a student at Baldwin, I am a huge advocate for women. Since scoliosis substantially affects young girls, I have been even more interested in making a difference. Additionally, I have felt comfortable promoting my brand within the Baldwin community. My friends at school have always supported me and helped market Strut for Scoliosis. Baldwin has provided me with a platform to advocate for scoliosis. Particularly, the Baldwin Book Store has even offered to start carrying my line!

How are sales going?
My sales have been going very well. I have held a trunk show at my local gym and had a booth at the Shipley Shops and Baldwin Homecoming. It has been amazing to sell my gear to other patients and bring the scoliosis community together. I look forward to changing the lives of teens with scoliosis in the future!

You can purchase items here.

Sharing My Admiration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Speech given by history teacher Fred Kountz at the All School Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Assembly on January 12.

This talk is a shorter version of a chapel homily I gave at the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, January 2011.

Fred KountzWhen we love something. When we are really in to something, we get defensive about it when we feel like it is misunderstood or under appreciated, and especially if we perceive in someone else something like false or insufficient affection for it, which we chalk up to them just not getting it. I was going to say this isn’t really an issue for you little guys. Like, if I walked into your classroom and said “I love Frozen! ” You would all freak out because of course you love Frozen too and we could just share that love and have the best time ever. You wouldn’t care that I was old-er or maybe didn’t know as much about it as you. You would just be happy that we could all watch together.

I was going to say that. But I see this same defensive-aggressive mindset in my daughter, who’s 3. She, like literally hundreds of millions of little girls like her, loves Frozen. My son, who is a year and a half, also loves Frozen. Except he calls it Anna, just like he calls every character in the movie, Anna. And this really bothers my daughter. When Joe, my son, sees Elsa, he calls out, “Anna!” And my daughter, Romy, let’s say forcefully corrects him that it’s Elsa. Because she loves Frozen so much and to her, Joe is just getting it wrong. (Complicating things is the fact that when my son says “Outside” it sounds like “Elsa,” and so my daughter is just baffled when he then turns around and calls Elsa Anna. Really mind blowing stuff for my daughter.)

We high school teachers see this more pronouncedly in our students, I think. By way of example I offer the time I agreed with a class of my seniors that Lil’ Wayne was, indeed, the greatest rapper alive, first surprising them that I was listening or even in the room, and then prompting them to never, ever, listen to him again. I tell you this is because I love Martin Luther King, Jr., and that I have long had a very anxious relationship with the popular celebration of the Federal Holiday that bears his name.

There are eleven of these days, every one of them mandated by the United States Congress in Title V of the United States Code.  We celebrate our independence from Great Britain, the New Year, Christmas, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, the inauguration of our presidents, and three holidays that have been set aside for individuals: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr. And on all of these days we end up celebrating things far removed from the historical moments or people who we purport to be celebrating in the first place.

And this used to bother me. A lot. When I was in my early twenties and knew everything, this really, really bothered me. With King, I hated that we had reduced him to his dream and his Nobel and to service and removed him entirely from the immensely and specifically charged and fraught period in which he lived. That we had removed him, in short, from his history. Eventually—and here I depart from a longer talk about history and memory and cynicism—I came to believe that I risked a great deal by alienating King from what Bernard Bailyn has referred to as the “popular embrace” of historical memory.

So let me tell you what I think about when I think about King. I will think about his upbringing in Atlanta, the privileged son of one of the giants of the Southern Baptist Church. By his 20s, Martin Luther King, Jr. was very near a prince of that church, and in 1954, when the 25 year-old King became pastor at Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, he was one of the most sought after preachers in the country, black or white. I will think about this not to contradict the familiar idea that King embodies the upward rise of the postwar liberated South, but to remember all that King had to lose when he became the most visible leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

I will think about the uproar caused at a meeting of the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City in 1961. When King, with his Civil Rights contingency, moved to take over the convention, a riot broke out in which one preacher was killed.  Joe Jackson, King’s conservative opponent and eventual leader of the convention, publicly blamed King for the death and threw the weight of the church against King’s civil rights initiatives. I will think of this not to wallow in King’s defeat, surely one of the most tragic and bitter experiences of his life, but rather to remind myself of what he must have been going through as he moved into Albany, Georgia for the first sustained campaign of civil disobedience against the South’s segregation laws. I will think of Dr. King during the three years between his successful Selma campaign and his death in 1968. The Civil Rights movement was coming apart, with King’s commitment to nonviolence increasingly derided by other leaders of the movement. His outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War led some in the white press to label him a traitor. President Johnson stopped seeing him, and the New York publishers stopped returning his literary agent’s calls.[3] All of this occurred during a decade when King, reviled by parts of his own government, was being mercilessly hounded by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, who were convinced that King was a Communist. When his long-time surveillance of King revealed no such thing, Hoover attempted to use details of King’s personal life to blackmail him into bowing out of the movement. Despite failing health, despite pressure from the Attorney General and the deranged Hoover, despite doubts about the direction that the movement was taking, not once did King give up.

I will think about the year 1983, when the holiday was finally enacted into law, a year that saw president Reagan publicly call into question King’s loyalty to his country, and an infamous 16-day filibuster of the holiday bill by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. In death, as in life, contempt for Dr. King revealed itself among our political leaders, and perhaps more than anything else, revealed why a holiday celebrating his life is so important.

Above all, I will think about Memphis, where King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. King had come to the city to join a strike by its sanitation workers, far from the mall in Washington, far from Oslo, far from presidents and prime ministers, and far from the glare of the national press. Along the way, writes King’s great biographer Taylor Branch, “[King] pushed his way back down to jail, [and] to new battles that left him nearly a pariah… The proud young doctor forged a prophet’s humility out of his determination to leave behind what he called “a committed life” This downward thrust makes him a transcendent figure rather than merely a romantic one.”[4]

So you can have your idea of King, and I can have mine. What I have come to understand is that it matters that we have them together. You might, like me, be troubled by our national and cultural tendency to mythologize our historical figures, but you can also take time to reflect on their histories, and maybe you’ll understand why we are moved to do so in the first place, and why it can call us into action. Maybe you’ll read about King’s life and find that a deeper understanding of him can lead to a deeper love, too. I’ll have some work to do to fully embrace the popular image of King, or at least to give it some room alongside my own view of him, but it will be well worth it. Thank you.

Serving the Children of Rift Valley Children’s Village

Written by guest blogger Shelley Lapinski, Coordinator of Global Initiatives

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Rift Valley Children’s Village was founded in 2003 and provides a loving, stable home for over 100 children living in a remote area of Tanzania.  In addition to caring for these children, RVCV has partnered with local primary and secondary government schools to improve upon the education system and outcomes for over 2,000 local children.  Free medical care is offered to local women, children and the elderly by a nurse practitioner and the local medical clinic, FAME. A microfinance program has been established which provides small business loans to over 480 clients, 75% of which are currently women.  These loans have helped local villagers to purchase land for their family home, afford to send a child to secondary school, and provide for their families.

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This amazing place is one of my favorite places in the world.  I have had the good fortune of traveling to Tanzania a few times as a direct result of Baldwin’s partnership with RVCV.  In existence since 2004, this partnership has brought student and adult volunteers to Tanzania and has culminated in annual student-led events and collections for supplies and much needed items.

My most recent trip was this summer in July and August where I was able to travel with Baldwin students Gillian Chestnut ’17 and Ryanna Neuman ’17.  Every volunteer at RVCV is there to make sure each child feels loved and valued every day – a goal that often pushes volunteers out of their comfort zones.  Our time volunteering at RVCV was no different in this regard.  We were able to do many things including teaching pre-school, working with Toddlers, playing more games of UNO than I can count, reading bedtime stories, and learning to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast.  A truly life changing experience, I cannot wait to be able to go back to RVCV in the future and would strongly encourage others to explore all that this inspiring organization is doing for the people of Tanzania.

Serving the Children of Rift Valley Children's Village

Written by guest blogger Shelley Lapinski, Coordinator of Global Initiatives

DSC01158-400

Rift Valley Children’s Village was founded in 2003 and provides a loving, stable home for over 100 children living in a remote area of Tanzania.  In addition to caring for these children, RVCV has partnered with local primary and secondary government schools to improve upon the education system and outcomes for over 2,000 local children.  Free medical care is offered to local women, children and the elderly by a nurse practitioner and the local medical clinic, FAME. A microfinance program has been established which provides small business loans to over 480 clients, 75% of which are currently women.  These loans have helped local villagers to purchase land for their family home, afford to send a child to secondary school, and provide for their families.

DSC01150-400

This amazing place is one of my favorite places in the world.  I have had the good fortune of traveling to Tanzania a few times as a direct result of Baldwin’s partnership with RVCV.  In existence since 2004, this partnership has brought student and adult volunteers to Tanzania and has culminated in annual student-led events and collections for supplies and much needed items.

My most recent trip was this summer in July and August where I was able to travel with Baldwin students Gillian Chestnut ’17 and Ryanna Neuman ’17.  Every volunteer at RVCV is there to make sure each child feels loved and valued every day – a goal that often pushes volunteers out of their comfort zones.  Our time volunteering at RVCV was no different in this regard.  We were able to do many things including teaching pre-school, working with Toddlers, playing more games of UNO than I can count, reading bedtime stories, and learning to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast.  A truly life changing experience, I cannot wait to be able to go back to RVCV in the future and would strongly encourage others to explore all that this inspiring organization is doing for the people of Tanzania.

Martin Luther King Day Assembly Remarks from Sally Powell, Head of School

This summer will mark fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “Dream speech” in 1963. Standing at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC he opened his speech by referencing the Emancipation Proclamation signed a full century earlier, saying: “This momentous decree came as a great beacon of light for hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice…. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. … the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination… the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity … the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

“Nineteen sixty three”, he said, “is not an end, but a beginning…”

Sadly his life was cut short in 1968 when he was just 39 years old, and his work remained unfinished and his dreams unfulfilled. Think for a moment about how he would feel today, were he still alive. What message would he be sending? Would his dream have changed? What questions would you like to ask him? What would you like to tell him?

If he had had a Facebook page, how would he have used it to channel his ideas and message? Consider what he might have Tweeted. Imagine how social media could have supported his dream and brought it closer to reality. And, then imagine what our world might look like today.

In 2013 words, ideas, dreams travel instantly across the globe. Think about the news that spread the instant a young girl in Pakistan was shot just because she wanted to go to school and get an education. Malala continues to recover from her near-fatal injury and the whole world is aware that denying education to girls is a global problem. Conversations are taking place, action groups have been formed and the work has begun to bring about change. Do you think it’s going to take fifty years from Malala’s first YouTube speech for her dream to become a reality?

This is the time for me to remind you that you have the opportunity to be part of the change you want to see in this world. You are bright, you are well-educated, you are leaders who have the responsibility to step up and stand up for what you know is right. Whatever your cause – racial equality or gender equality or something very different – you must use your knowledge, your leadership skills and whatever new communication tools evolve over the next decades to make a positive difference.

There is so much to learn from the passion, the oratory and the dreams of Dr. King. Please let’s not forget that the grass roots of humanity begin with a human voice.

Students Speak: Mecca Pelzer, Service League

The opening  assembly was an invigorating gathering of students, faculty and staff.  We continue our a five-part series of blog posts, reflecting Students Speak:on our student leaders’ remarks from that day with Mecca Pelzer, Service League.

“One of my inspirations, Isabella Baumfree, who you may know as Sojourner Truth, a slave born in New York, escaped bondage in 1826. It is not only the strength and courage she demonstrated through her struggle toward freedom that inspires me, but how she utilized her freedom once she attained it. Immediately after she was free, she migrated north to Massachusetts. In Massachusetts she joined forces with abolitionists and women’s rights activists Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Though Isabella could not read or write, she used her voice and spoke to audiences up and down the east coast, including Congress, about her struggles as a slave and her advocacy for women’s voting rights. Despite claims that her ideas were radical and foolish, she tapped into her power, and continued her fight for justice. She realized that her purpose to give back to others and seek freedom for those she had left behind was far greater than any opposition she experienced.

So why did I spend the first minute of this speech giving you a history lesson? There are parallels between Isabella Baumfree’s journey and the journey that Baldwin’s Service League plans to take this year. Our themes this year are HIV/AIDS Awareness, Animal Care, Natural Disaster Relief, and the Environment. Our goal this year is to introduce diversity among our service projects in order for you to discover which areas of service interest you most and give everyone the opportunity to exercise their freedom in those areas. Service League hopes to expand service throughout the Philadelphia area at local shelters, parks, and hospitals. Service Saturdays will give you the opportunity to explore service in other locations within the Philadelphia and Montgomery county areas. We will also spread service south during our Natural Disasters relief – we will give support and raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Haiti Earthquake victims to show that we have not left them behind. Our funds will go towards rebuilding homes and schools, academic programs, and water systems. Isabella Baumfree illustrated that though obstacles may arise, we possess the power and the freedom to utilize the resources available to us – most importantly our voices. Service Representatives want to hear from you – our ears are open and so is the Service League open forum on Facebook. It is your responsibility to join and share your ideas.

When I think of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and William L. Garrison’s collaboration, I am reminded of Baldwin’s theme the first year I attended – many individuals, one Baldwin. I ask that you remember that each and every one of us is a powerful young woman who can accomplish anything – especially when we join forces and work together. Throughout the year, Service League will collaborate with Athletics Association (the HIV/AIDS Walk which takes place on October 21st and the Challenge Athletics Foundation later on in the year) and Arts League for Baldwin’s MLK Day of service. These opportunities are not limited to the representatives from each group – we need everyone! We need your ideas, your motivation, your determination, your hands, your perseverance, your heart. We are going to use our freedom and our power this year to open new doors – not only for Baldwin, but for those we serve. Though Thanksgiving baskets, the book drive, and environmental service are a major part of our service plans for the year, Service League encourages you to cross boundaries and try something new. If you use your power and freedom wisely you will be surprised by the positive changes that occur!”