Tag Archives: Suzanne Middle School

WVUSD Science Olympiad Teams Bring Home Top Awards

All middle, high schools advance to state finals

By Kelli Gile

Walnut—After months of preparation, Walnut Valley USD Science Olympiad teams came away with an impressive cache of gilded medals during the Los Angeles regional competition.

All three middle schools and both high schools will now advance to the Southern California State Finals at Caltech on April 6.

Chaparral scored a 3rd place finish, Suzanne took 4th place, and South Pointe followed in 5th place during the Division B middle school contest among 40 teams at Rio Hondo College.

Chaparral’s team, advised by science teacher Bob Patterson, won 1st place awards in nine of the 23 individual competitions including Disease Detectives, Dynamic Planet, and Mystery Architecture.

“The success of our team is due to the dedicated efforts and team spirit displayed by our students, and the amazing support of our parents,” Patterson said.

In Division C, Diamond Bar High’s total scores earned 3rd place and Walnut High took 4th place among 50 high-performing teams in the contest.

“Our Science Olympiad team is currently preparing for the next competition and is eager to demonstrate their hard work and knowledge at the state level,” said Diamond Bar High math teacher and advisor Dawn Daza.

Quail Summit Elementary students scored the gold medal and earned the second highest score in the competition among 66 teams in the Division A competition held at Occidental College on February 25. 

Additionally, Castle Rock and C.J. Morris Elementary Schools brought home the silver awards.

“This group of dedicated 4th and 5th grade young scientists studied all year, put in hours of research, and conducted experiments,” said Quail Summit’s elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.

“They displayed teamwork, character, perseverance, and great critical thinking skills – and we are so proud of them!”

After competing all day in the rain, the elementary division’s awards ceremony was cancelled due to the inclement weather.

And although most teams headed home before the final results were announced, Quail Summit students decided to wait 90 minutes for the final tally of scores.

“We worked too hard – we’re staying!” they chimed.

Students Take Top Awards in National Math Olympiad

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT – More than fifty students from Suzanne Middle School joined nearly 150,000 students in the United States during the 2017-18 Math Olympiad.


The annual contest enables “mathletes” to challenge themselves and to compete against other students nationwide.


Math Olympiad is comprised of five monthly contests held from November through March, each containing five high-level math problems.


For the first time ever, Suzanne 7th and 8th grade students scored in the top 10% of all teams in their division nationwide earning a highest team achievement award.


The 6th through 8th grade students also competed among schoolmates during nationwide challenge.


Eighth grader Joshua Hsu earned the title of top school winner with a perfect score of 25. He was awarded the individual George Lenchner Award of Excellence.


Additionally, Joshua received a 1st place trophy and gold pin signifying his outstanding top 2% in the nation score.


Seventh grader Chandrark Mudddana took the 2nd place award and silver pin for scoring in the top 10% nationally.


Eighth graders Daniel Ji and Deven Tseng tied for the 3rd place award scoring in the top 10% nationally.


The top 6th grade winners were Lucas He and Louis Xie, both scoring in the top 10% nationally. They earned 1st place trophies and silver pins.


Second place winners Adora Ma and Harris Song also scored in the top 10% nationally and earned silver pins.


Phillip Chen took the 3rd place award and recognition patch for scoring in the top 25% nationally.


In addition, several 7th and 8th grade students were honored for their high scores.


Serena Huang, Benjamin Jin, Lewis Lui, and Kevin Yu scored in the top 10% nationally and received silver pins.


David Hu, Bella Liu, Andrew Shi, Max Eibert, and Eric Wang scored in the top 20% nationally and received silver pins.


Oscar Chen and Siarra Huang scored in the top 25% nationally and received patches.


Allison Lin and Joseph Shen scored in the top 30% nationally.


Jayaraman Donath, Kevin Zeng, Matthew Carreon, Andrea Florendo and Ella Lin scored in the top 40% nationally.


Megan So, Andrew Wang, and Aaron Zhang scored in the top 50% of the nation.


Several 6th grade students were recognized for their high scores.


Andrew Qi, Nathan Chung, Aidan Do and Eric Tsou scored in the top 40% nationally. Vito Lin and Lorraine Wu scored in the top 50% nationally.


Congratulations Suzanne Middle School students and coach Amy Erickson.


Suzanne MS Students Join Special Olympics

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Blue Ribbon Day! Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.

By Kelli Gile 

WALNUT – Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.


Several months before the games, the children began training with adapted physical education (APE) teacher Greg Sasaki.


“Preparing is its own challenge,” said special education teacher Melanie Kobayashi.


The children had to learn that the very loud sound from the starter pistol was the cue to begin racing.


“Loud sounds can be very disturbing to people with autism and the students had to get accustomed to that and react appropriately,” she explained.


The racers learned how to take their place at the starter line and run in the lane, focusing on themselves, not the stranger competing next to them, all the way to the finish line.


And they had to do it with hundreds of unfamiliar faces around them in a place they had never been before.


All four students participated in either a 25-meter walk or run earning the highest reward – a 1st Place blue ribbon.


They also received green participation ribbons in the softball throw event.


To prepare for the ball throw, they had to learn to step and throw overhand from behind the line.


“They were amazing!” Kobayashi shared.


“It was a lot of work and they made us very proud!”


7 WVUSD Schools Selected for California Honor Roll

Leaders in Student Achievement 

Suzanne Middle School 6th graders score a great time during field day with teacher Lauri Ujita

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Suzanne Middle School 6th graders score a great time during field day with teacher Lauri Ujita

By Kelli Gile 

Walnut – Seven Walnut Valley USD schools have been named to the 2015 CBEE California Honor Roll for consistently demonstrating high levels of student academic achievement.

Scholar schools are Evergreen Elementary, Quail Summit Elementary, Chaparral Middle School, South Pointe Middle School, Suzanne Middle School, Diamond Bar High School, and Walnut High School.

The program is sponsored by the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEE) and Educational Results Partnership (ERP).

After an extensive analysis of every school in the state, Honor Roll schools are identified as clear leaders in getting students to grade level and beyond.

This year, the California Honor Roll recognized 1,714 high-performing public schools who are successfully preparing students for college and careers.

Congratulations to our dedicated principals, teachers, and staff members who work tirelessly to help Walnut Valley students achieve such success!


Suzanne Mathletes Win Gold

By Kelli Gile

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile Suzanne Middle School MATHCOUNTS coach Amy Erickson congratulates gold medal winners Tyler Xu, William Lin, Darren Chen, and Clement Chan.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Suzanne Middle School MATHCOUNTS coach Amy Erickson congratulates gold medal winners Tyler Xu, William Lin, Darren Chen, and Clement Chan.

Walnut- The Suzanne Middle School MATHCOUNTS team won a dozen gold medals during this year’s L.A. County Math Field Day on April 30.

Team members are eighth graders Darren Chen, William Lin, Tyler Xu, and Clement Chan.

Over 30 school districts from across the county sent teams to the event, which was held at Glendale High School. The competition has a new format which focuses on Common Core mathematics curriculum and teamwork.

Students worked together in teams to solve problems and explain their understanding.  Teams were graded on mathematical knowledge and judged on group interaction and collaboration.

Suzanne’s MATHCOUNTS team took the top prize in both the Problem Solving and Conceptual Understanding categories. They also took home a teamwork participation medal.

“It was a very exciting and rewarding day for our mathletes,” said coach Amy Erickson.



SMS Students Medal in National Math Exam

Photo Courtesy of WVUSD Top award winners Darren Chen, William Lin, and Amber Tsao

Photo Courtesy of WVUSD
Top award winners Darren Chen, William Lin, and Amber Tsao

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT– Fifty Suzanne Middle School students recently participated in the challenging AMC 8 math contest.

During the national event, mathletes tackle 25 multiple-choice questions on the 40-minute timed competition. Questions cover many different topics, which exceed the normal middle school curriculum.  The top three school finishers earned medals.

Darren Chen, grade 8, took home the gold medal with a top score of 23 out of 25. He was also awarded an Honor Roll of Distinction Certificate for scoring in the top 1% in the nation.

William Lin, grade 8, earned the silver medal with a score of 20 out of 25.  He also earned an Honor Roll Certificate for scoring in the top 5% in the nation.

Amber Tsao, grade 8, earned the bronze medal with a score of 17 out of 25. Additionally, she earned an Honor Roll Certificate for scoring in the top 5% in the nation.

Joining the medal winners with Honor Roll Certificates were fellow eighth graders Joseph Xu, Katherine Lee, Tyler Xu, Rongtian Yue and 6th grader Joshua Hsu.

Joshua Hsu was also awarded a Certificate of Achievement for scoring above 15 as a sixth grader.

The top-ten middle school students will also participate in the AMC 10 on February 17.

“I am very proud of the students for all of their hard work, dedication and achievements.  Well done!” commented math teacher Amy Erickson.

“I am very proud of our Math Counts students and the level of success they have achieved this year,” added Principal Les Ojeda. “They have done a great job representing our school and I am proud to be their principal. Ms. Erickson has done an outstanding job as their coach and goes above and beyond preparing them for their competitions.”


Suzanne Teacher Awarded Class Makeover

This summer, Suzanne Middle School math teacher Amy Erickson will receive a 21st century classroom makeover courtesy of OnPoint Innovative Learning Environments. Shown with Kevin Mulligan and Tiffany Chan.

This summer, Suzanne Middle School math teacher Amy Erickson will receive a 21st century classroom makeover courtesy of OnPoint Innovative Learning Environments. Shown with Kevin Mulligan and Tiffany Chan.

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Suzanne Middle School math teacher, Amy Erickson, has been selected for a 21st century classroom makeover, valued at $25,000.  She was among hundreds of attendees at the CUE educational technology conference in March. Like most teachers, Erickson visited the vendor showcase in-between sessions.

At one particular display – OnPoint Innovative Learning Environments – Erickson struck up a conversation.

“I sat down at the booth and said ‘show me what you have’,” she explained.  “We talked a lot about math and what I’d like to do in my class. Then, the owner handed me a piece of paper and said write down your dream list.”

She jotted down that she wanted a new LCD projector.

“Mine’s not very good, but we don’t have the money for a new one,” Erickson said.

OnPoint suggested that she think bigger and create a list for an ideal classroom, and to follow up after the conference.  She did.

Erickson soon visited the Ontario office, and OnPoint personnel came out and visited her classroom.

“The first thing they liked is a math teacher whose classroom is not set up in rows.  We like to do group work for Common Core,” Erickson said.

On May 26, OnPoint CEO, Kevin Mulligan, and Director, Tiffany Chan, made the official announcement in Erickson’s class.

“We’ll be modernizing the classroom with new projection systems and technology for your teacher and you to enjoy,” Mulligan said.

The 7th grade Algebra students cheered after hearing the amazing news.

The Walnut Valley class will receive a new projection system, an additional screen on the opposite side of room, a document camera, surround sound, software, as well as in-class support and training. The goal is for the upgrades to be complete when school starts in the fall.

“She was selected by our team,” Mulligan explained. “We loved her personality and her enthusiasm. It became really clear that we wanted to do something for this lady. It all came together with the support of the District.”

“I just thought it would be so great for the kids,” Erickson said. “I’m really glad our school got picked!”

Friendship Summit Held For 6th Graders

Group activities at the 6th Grade Summit at Suzanne Middle School helped students get to know each other while having fun. (Photo Courtesy:  Kelli Gile)

Group activities at the 6th Grade Summit at Suzanne Middle School helped students get to know each other while having fun. (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Suzanne Middle School reached out to its 6th Grade students during a Friendship Summit on Jan. 29.

“The school’s pillar of the month is “Caring” and Summit activities focused on how to make friends, how to build relationships, and find commonalities with other classmates,” said counselor GeorgeAnn Cusson.

8th Grade student leaders from Peer Assistance Leadership Students (PALS) and Peer Leaders Uniting Students (PLUS) worked with students during breakout sessions at the 4th Annual event.  The school also hosts specific Summit events targeted for 7th and 8th Grade students.

“Suzanne fully embraces character education and really educates the whole child,” stated teacher and advisor, Marla Rickard.  “I love that our 8th Grade students care so much about the well-being of their classmates.  They spend a lot of time getting trained for facilitating all of the groups and are committed to making sure all kids are engaged and have the opportunities to connect with their peers.”

“These Summits help students interact with each other,” said PALS member Sabrina Chou. “Today’s all about friendship! We want the kids to make new friends and be there for each other during the tough times, too.”

“They help people make new friends,” added Amilia Picella, 13, a PLUS member.

“Basically this entire Summit is to help everybody get out of their everyday groups. We’re trying to mix them up so they don’t just hang out with the same group of people all the time,” Maggie Ho added.

In Room 22, 6th Graders watched “The Sneetches,” by Dr. Seuss, about a group of yellow creatures who are very judgmental to those without a green stars on their bellies.

“I think the moral was, don’t treat people differently because they’re different,” said Natalie Zzhamezhyan, 11.

Field activities included a new version of rock-paper-scissors called giants-wizards-elves.  During the match, groups formed two lines with their backs to each other. At the signal, students simultaneously turned to each other shouting out their response during the quick draw game.  Giants beat elves, wizards beat giants, and elves beat wizards – fun!

“Everybody has to make a decision who they will be,” Picella explained.

In the Trust Game, students with eyes tightly closed are guided through a maze by partners. Then they switch,” explained PLUS member, Jaslynn Lugo, 14.

“It was fun and a little scary,” said Melissa Munoz, 11, after completing the course.

“Seeing these kids interacting with each other, caring for, and holding each other accountable in life are just a few of the positive outcomes of the Summits,” said Rickard.

“I’ve had a good time today,” said 11-year-old Arin Thompson. “The best thing was the friendship web that showed what people have done for us or what we can do for people.”

“In this particular Summit kids learn that true friends may seem hard to make, but in order to have good friends, you must be one yourself,” said Rickard.  “They learn that character shines through everyday decisions and the relationships they attain.  You just have to be you and embrace the unique attributes others have!”

Walnut: Suzanne 8th Graders Stand Tall At Summit




: The 8th Grade Summit field activities focused on team building through physical activities. (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Walnut – Suzanne Middle School 8th graders took a giant step forward in breaking down the walls of stereotypes and learning about the people around them during the 6th Annual Summit.

The exciting day of activities included workshops, discussions, and a motivational speaker.

About 475 students were divided into three groups to rotate through breakout sessions in classrooms, the field, and the multi-purpose room. The topic of the day was “Understanding and Overcoming Stereotypes”

“Students were mixed up into groups so they could get to know peers that they might not otherwise meet,” explained counselor George Ann Cusson.

“The entire 8th Grade class participated in a day of reflection and opportunities of personal growth,” said teacher Marla Rickard.

Classroom sessions allowed students to look at the impact of judging people and to reflect on personal impacts on all the parties. Some of the activities included, If You Knew Me Well, the Tootsie Pop, and the Playing Card. The field activities focused on team building through physical activities; a favorite was the Human Pyramid.

During the Stand Tall challenge in the MPR, students learned more about themselves and each other. They analyzed the Iceberg Theory to find ways to drop below the water level to get to know their fellow classmates.

Rickard and Cusson created the event made possible with the help several teachers and staff members, PLUS and PALS service club members, and leadership students.

31 Walnut High School students and two graduates also come for the day to facilitate and lead all the breakout sessions.

“Without them the day would not be as successful. It’s a true team effort,” Rickard said.

“I think the kids are learning more about what they say to each other and to think before they speak,” said WHS senior and ASB president Phillip Silesky,

In one game, students asked their neighbor questions from a bowl. Some were serious: What would you do if you knew one of your friends was taking drugs? And some were funny: If you were invisible for one day what would be the first thing you would do?

“I probably wouldn’t even know I was invisible and just go to school!” one student replied.

After lunch, WHS graduate and motivational speaker, Dee Hankins, spoke to the class about goal setting, rising above any situation, and encouraged the students to live their life with purpose.


Walnut: Suzanne Students Join Global Math Olympiad



Suzanne 7th Grade Math Olympian winners show their awards, showing with teacher Amy Erickson. (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Walnut – Suzanne Middle School students were among the 110,000 students worldwide to participate in the 2013-2014 Math Olympiad program. The team participated in a series of five monthly contests, with five problems each, from November to March, and weekly practice sessions with Suzanne math teachers and coaches, Amy Erickson and Victor Lu.

The Math Olympiad contests challenged students to solve unusual and difficult problems and to think creatively. Students were awarded trophies for top scores in each grade level as well as pins and patches of recognition.

“The students responded well to the challenge and were recognized for their achievements during an end of the year awards celebration,” Erickson said.

For the 6th Grade, William Lin came in first with a total of 21 correct out of 25. Lin, Darren Chen, Derek Wang, John Chou, Amber Tsao, Jennifer Zhang, Tyler Xu, and Melony Yu all received silver pins to signify a top 10% score. An embroidered patch was also awarded to Liwen Xia, Nicole Chiang, Katherine Lee, Catherine Wang, Curtis Lin, Daniel Ahu, Marco Chan, Jeremy Hsiao, Louis Wong and Kevin Chen for placing in the top 50%.

For the 7th Grade, Aaron Chang was awarded the 1st Place trophy, along with a patch signifying a top 50% score. Alice Zhang, Ethan Lin, Oscar Chou, Sylvester Yue, Angela Zhu, Jordin Wang, Felianne Teng, Yi Chen, Jerry Guo, Sheldon Zhu, Derick Tseng, Phillip Leung and Jing Wong also received patches for their 50% scores.

For the 8th Grade, Eugene Lo was awarded the 1st Place trophy along with a silver pin recognizing his top 10% score. Christopher Wang was also awarded a silver pin. Kevin Jensen, Lydia Chan, Fabiola Delvillar, Charles Gu, Matthew Nguyen and Irene Zhou received patches for their 50% scores.


Walnut: Suzanne Middle School Teacher Named to Dream Team


Helen Papadopoulos (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)

BY KELLY GILE Walnut – Helen Papadopoulos, a Math and Drama teacher at Suzanne Middle School, has been selected to the 2014 Learn Zillion Dream Team. She is one of 77 returning members to the elite team.

Over 4,000 educators applied for the 200 spots available on the 2014 Dream Team. Members were selected for their content knowledge, grit and humility. These impressive Math and English Language Arts teachers represent the best of district, charter and independent schools in 42 states and three countries.

The Dream Team convened in New Orleans for TeachFest, a unique professional development event that was held June 4 through 7. There they kicked off a rigorous summer-long collaboration to create high-quality formative assessment tools and resources that will support teachers implementing the Common Core across the United States. Following TeachFest, Dream Team members returned to their respective districts and will continue to work in facilitated online professional learning communities.

Being on the Dream Team is about more than world-class professional development and creating great content — it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

The diverse group brings over 2,300 years of teaching experience, ranging from two to 42 years in the classroom.

Papadopoulos is a 2007 California Teacher of the Year and 2012 Bravo Award winner.

WALNUT: Suzanne Teacher Named 2014 PBS Digital Innovator

Alice Chen

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Alice Chen, a Suzanne Middle School Language Arts teacher and Technology Coach, has been selected as one of the top 16 PBS Learning Media Digital Innovators for 2014.

An impressive group of 100 educators from across the country was named to the program in an announcement made April 7. In addition, the top 16 applicants will serve as leads of the program and will receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC, on June 19 and 20, to participate in a digital education summit.


“I’m honored to have been selected, and I look forward to all the learning and collaboration that this opportunity will provide,” said Chen, who is also a Google Certified Teacher and a Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum Finalist.

The congratulatory letter from PBS Learning Media stated that Chen “stood out above the rest of the applicants for the nationwide program.” She was chosen as a program leader due to her overwhelming tech-savvy skills and passion for integrating digital media and technology in the classroom.

Chen’s favorite PBS Learning Media resource is the Global Learning and Diplomacy Collection.  Her students used this rich resource during their Global Awareness Speech Unit when they researched, wrote, and delivered a TED-style talk about pressing global issues in today’s world.


PBS Learning Media received hundreds of applications from leading K-12 teachers throughout the U.S. and its territories. An esteemed group of judges selected the 100 educators based on submissions of videos and written essays that addressed how they are leading innovation in digital teaching in their classrooms and schools. As a 2014 PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator, Chen becomes a member in a robust professional learning community with access to exclusive resources.

Walnut: WVUSD Middle School Mathletes Dominate at Regionals


The Suzanne Middle School 1st Place Team: Matthew Nguyen, Aaron Chang, Amy Erickson, Ethan Lin, and Christopher Wong, with advisor Amy Erickson.  (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

The Suzanne Middle School 1st Place Team: Matthew Nguyen, Aaron Chang, Amy Erickson, Ethan Lin, and Christopher Wong, with advisor Amy Erickson. (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

The South Pointe Middle School MATHCOUNTS team.  (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

The South Pointe Middle School MATHCOUNTS team. (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Chaparral Middle School competitors at the MATHCOUNTS Regional Competition. (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Chaparral Middle School competitors at the MATHCOUNTS Regional Competition. (Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile)

Walnut — Walnut Valley Unified School District’s three middle schools, Suzanne, Chaparral, and South Pointe, again took three of the top four places at the East San Gabriel Valley Chapter MATHCOUNTS Competition, held Feb. 21 at California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

The Suzanne MATHCOUNTS Team won 1st Place, Chaparral Mathletes took 2nd Place honors, and South Pointe brought home the 4th Place award.

Congratulations to the Suzanne MATHCOUNTS competition team who will now advance to the California State Competition. Two individual competitors will also advance to State:  Chaparral 8th Grader Matthew Ho, who placed first overall, and South Pointe 8th Grader Austin Sun, who placed second overall. The California State Competition will be held at the University of California, Irvine, on March 14.

“I am enormously proud of the students. They have been working very hard toward this goal for the past several years.  This is only the second time in our school’s 52-year history that we have placed first.  I would also like to commend the Walnut High School Math Club and especially their president, Andy Tsai, for all the volunteer hours spent coaching the Suanne Mathletes. This is truly a team win,” said Suzanne math teacher and advisor, Amy Erickson.

Walnut: Suzanne Students Join Connected Conversation with Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Suzanne Middle School Students

On Jan. 15, Alice Chen’s 8th Grade Language Arts students participated in a Connected Classroom Conversation with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo Courtesy: Kelli Gile)


Walnut —Suzanne Middle School students got a special lesson from Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, on January 15. Teacher Alice Chen’s 8th Grade Language Arts class participated in a live Connected Classrooms Conversation to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just days before the National holiday held in his honor.
Three classrooms from across the United States participated in the Google Hangout On-Air event. Each educator invited to participate is a member of Google’s “Connected Classrooms”.
“I was invited to join Connected Classrooms last fall when this community first launched. The invitation initially went out to Google Certified Teachers. Then it was opened up to other teachers as the program grew,” Chen explained. She is also a moderator for Connected Classrooms.
“Educators who want to be involved in this kind of project, they don’t specify which one, are welcome to sign up. Then, they’ll match you according to content and age appropriateness,” she explained.
Chen found out about the opportunity the day before the live conversation and was eager for her students to participate.
At 10 a.m., PST, moderator Dawn Engle introduced Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee to the Walnut classroom.
“She is a woman who exemplified the Peace Jam movement. In fact, she’s a Liberian Peace Activist and is responsible for leading a woman’s peace movement that helped put an end to the second Liberian Civil War,” she said.
After each class took turns introducing themselves to the honored guest, who was in New York during the event, Engle started the one-hour conversation by asking the Nobel Peace Prize winner “Why is so it important to honor the life and the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King at this time every year?”
“First, I think he is in a class all by himself,” Gbowee answered. “He really was a trailblazer and it’s important to celebrate him at this time. It’s a reminder that even the most difficult of challenges in the world we can overcome if we focus, if we preserve and if we do it non-violently,” she said.
She described Dr. King as being a change agent for his belief. He was willing to go all out, persevere, be consistent, focused, and not get distracted with the negativity. Dr. King started something at a time in the world when everyone felt it was not possible,” Gbowee said.
“He decided we’re going to do this and break this barrier,” she added.
“When I sit and think of Dr. King and the incredible work that he did, and at the end of the day, when we look back, there are a lot of things that have happened in this world beyond the Civil Rights struggle. We see other situations in the world, and people say, ‘If King could do it, I too can do it’,” she said.
“The most important thing that Dr. King taught us is we are the change that we hope to see. It is in each and every individual,” she added.
Two students from each classroom also asked questions. When it was their turn, Suzanne students, Kaitlin Garrett and Steven Sakamoto, stood next to the projection screen face-to-face with the international legend. 8th Grader, Kaitlin Garrett, asked the first question during the event.
“I really liked what [Gbowee] said about us being the change. And how we can start it and I thought it was really inspiring because it is very true. I think if one person starts it and everybody joins in, it continues on,” Garrett said.
Garrett said she plans to begin finding ways to become a change maker. “This will inspire me to start thinking about changes and how we can help the community,” she said
Gbowee shared several of her own experiences about making a difference through non-violent struggle.
She said she wrote her book, Mighty Be Our Prayers, to share that it doesn’t matter if your life has taken a downturn, you can be an agent of change. “No matter how hard you fall, you are not judged in this life by the magnitude of your fall, it’s your ability to rise up and stand tall,” she said.
She also advised the students to find their own passion and that they could be difference makers too.
“When I was growing up, I never thought about a Nobel Peace Prize. I always thought about how I could make a difference,” she said
“Dr. King said anybody can be great. Those who see problems can be great through service, be great through humility, be great through doing good and not expecting anything in return. That is the kind of greatness Dr. King talked about and that has guided my work,” she explained to the students.
The recorded broadcast will also be shown to Bishop Desmond Tutu, who is on the Peace Jam board. And the kids got to wave hello to him.
Gbowee concluded the conversation by offering a challenge to the students. “Dr. King was a great man in a class all by himself. He stepped out when no one thought it was possible. I think to the young people of the world, if you read the life and legacy of Dr. King, he was one ordinary person who decided to try to do the impossible and leave an extraordinary mark on the world. We all have a light in us. If we ever decide to tap into that light, we too, can make the impossible possible. And leave an extraordinary legacy,” she said.
“You have the light, you have the examples, and you have the platform. Step out and make big changes. I hope someday I will read about one of you from these three classrooms of the great work you have done,” she added.
The Connected Classrooms broadcast can be viewed at https://plus.google.com/events/ckfsc2s5dg1aqvglm1h4ha902uo.