“George, can we have a bake sale?”
That was Wednesday last week, in the hallway, right at the start of school. And this afternoon we wired a check for $1124 to the Red Cross.
It’s over a week now since we first heard the news of the catastrophic consequences of the earthquake in Haiti. That very morning, first thing, students began planning what they could do to help send relief.
This morning dozens of students in grades 5 through 12 gathered in the Kenyon Center to brainstorm ways to support the relief efforts in Haiti.
All week I overheard fragments of conversation among high schoolers as they gathered first thing in Kenyon. They pieced together elements of the story involving the history, infrastructure, politics, economics and culture of Haiti and the science of earthquakes as they began to spin out ideas for how they could raise money and help.
One student is organizing a benefit concert and has put together an impressive group of musicians, found a donated space and set up a Facebook page to promote the event. Other initiatives are in the works.
In morning meetings students began to pool their ideas and share their reactions. Students urged each other to text a Red Cross donation via their cell phones . (“Don’t forget to check with the account holder,” one voice cautioned.)
The brainstorming meeting this morning focused on how to distinguish immediate and intermediate relief from a longer term commitment. There was no shortage of ideas, suggestions and options for ways forward. They worked on organizing strategies and how best to continue their thinking in smaller meetings and online using the PDS Ning to connect, share and communicate.
And as I listened I was impressed by the depth of caring, thoughtful attention and intelligence these young people ages 10-18 brought to this task. They had taken on the tasks of learning, of emotional resilience and mindful, informed action. They care. They want to act intelligently.
This week we have celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King. In 1947 – when he was a teenager – he wrote in his college newspaper: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Intelligence and character – the young people in that room this morning demonstrated both as they grappled with the interconnections, complexities and ambiguities of the crisis in Haiti. This was problem solving and leadership at its best, and with no easy set of immediate hand-me-down answers.
Intelligence and character: These qualities are not unique to students at PDS. I know that in schools across the world children have been responding to this crisis and doing remarkable things. Young people everywhere have this potential and this same desire to make the world a better place. That is my experience. And of course, they are qualities not confined to the young. We all have that potential. That is a source of hope