Up Close: Celebrate!
Student chapters honor public education
Part of the fun of being involved with your local chapter is the opportunity to celebrate the very field in which you plan to make your bread and butter. With a little help from NEA, student chapters across the country during this past year organized, recruited, and raised funds for innovative events in their communities.
If your chapter is considering programs for this year, signature NEA events—such as American Education Week and NEA’s Read Across America—are great places to start. Several student chapters shared highlights from their events:
Making the Connection
To celebrate American Education Week 2008—“Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility”— Spelman College members invited NEA Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle to speak to education students from area colleges and universities.
In terms of organizing and fundraising, the chapter—which enjoys strong ties to the local community—didn’t need to look far for support, and they also received aid from the Georgia Association of Educators.
Other event notables included Joyce King, the Chair of Educational Policy at Georgia State University, and Spelman professor Christine King Farris, sister of Martin Luther King, Jr. Pringle discussed issues surrounding No Child Left Behind, and the need to provide educators and their students with the knowledge and skills to nurture a vibrant democracy.
Student program advisor and Associate Professor of Education Gwendolyn Middlebrooks says the best part of the luncheon was when students spoke directly with Pringle. “Sometimes the dignitaries only get to speak to the students,” Middlebrooks
says. “[But Pringle] responded to their questions, ate with them, and they could feel the genuine in her.”
Time to read! party on!
The Kent State University chapter was a little glum when its NEA’s Read Across America event scheduled for March 2, 2008 was snowed out, but it didn’t keep the group down: They rescheduled, re-energized, and successfully hosted nearly 200 children and parents from the community.
Working with the Ohio Student Education Association (OSEA), Kent State members manned different stations where they read to the kids, made funky Dr. Seuss door hangers, created paper-bag puppets, and led the children in a sing-along during the all-day event.
Even parents had their own station, and five Kent State athletes came to demonstrate the “coolness” of reading.
As a result, NEA honored the Kent State chapter with the 2008 “Outstanding CLASS Project” award (the event was funded with donations, money the chapter already had, and an NEA CLASS Grant of $3,000).
But even more important than financing the event, says OSEA chair and Kent State student Danielle Sherritt, was engaging the community at large to volunteer their time, energy, and collective creativity to make sure the event was well-managed and outstandingly fun for the children.
“It’s a lot of work,” Sherritt says, “but it’s absolutely worth seeing the end result.”
No Lipstick on a Pig Here
NEA Student Program Chairperson Jermaine Coleman remembers this about his tenth-grade biology teacher: Rather than coddle his students to prepare them to dissect a dead pig, teacher Mike Maddox threw one across the room. To Coleman. Who caught it.
That day, Maddox both demonstrated his whimsy and, more importantly, inspired Coleman to become a teacher himself.
That is why Coleman invited Maddox to the 2007 National Fall Connections Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where Maddox joined other “inspirational teachers,” selected by the nine-member Student Advisory Committee.
While the logistics of accommodating out-of-town guests can be expensive, Coleman reminds us, one way student members at individual chapters can celebrate education is by honoring local teachers they meet through student teaching or mentoring opportunities.
Money MattersYour chapter has no shortage of ideas and energy.
But some plans need funding to make them a reality, and that's where NEA's grant programs come in. SOAR grants (Student Organizing Assistance and Resources) support the recruitment of student members and CLASS grants (Community Learning Through America's Schools) are for chapters organizing projects that support their communities.