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Celebrating Black History Month Through Art, Word and Craft



Black heritage will be explored in a vibrant variety of ways in Peachtree Corners and throughout the county as libraries, schools and the community celebrate Black History Month.
Among school programs planned, Duluth Middle School will do a tribute to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and create a living wax museum of historical Black figures.

Coleman Middle School is working on a Feb. 24 Literacy Night featuring activities around the book “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds and presentations by students and community members.
Meanwhile, the Peachtree Corners Branch Library is preparing for family programs, including a Black history scavenger hunt and an Underground Railroad quilt block activity for children.

In another virtual program, Gwinnett County Public Library’s (GCPL) Ron Gauthier will discuss the moral and religious thoughts of abolitionist Frederick Douglass with Professor Scott C. Williamson of Kentucky’s Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

Partnering for voting and civil rights history

Gauthier, the library system’s youth services community partnerships manager, is working with a library task force and school representatives to deliver a new series of lessons on national and local voting and civil rights history to Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) students.

Ron Gauthier, Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL) Youth Services Community Partnerships Manager (Courtesy of GCPL)

The program began in 2019 when Gauthier presented a program for Bay Creek Middle School at school media specialist Mona Pop’s request.

Customized to meet teachers’ requests, the program became popular and has expanded to other middle schools and a couple of high schools in a virtual format.

The task force is working to match the program to the students’ social studies curriculum with a goal of making it available to all eighth-graders. Their work has been enhanced with funding from a Library of Congress grant, “Teaching with Primary Sources.”

Margaret Penn, the library system’s director of Branch Services, said the grant is designed to “connect students with original documents of history and photos, anything from legislation to newspapers to first-person accounts.”

A series of 55-minute programs accompanied by lesson plans features lectures and visuals and is “loaded with primary sources” from the Library of Congress, the Digital Library of Georgia and other sources, Gauthier said.

He said children have been fascinated to learn of the youth who participated in the Civil Rights movement, such as students who protested segregation through lunch counter sit-ins. They’ve learned about Claudette Colvin, who was arrested at the age of 15 in Montgomery, Ala. for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus, nine months before Rosa Parks.

One of the Library of Congress video clips the program uses is an excerpt from “CBS News Eyewitness: The Albany Movement,” broadcast in 1962. In the video, teenage demonstrators are arrested for singing and praying in front of the segregated public library.

“The act of civil disobedience, actually kneeling in front of the library, is a really powerful video image,” Gauthier said.

Pop, the Bay Creek media specialist, said Gauthier’s presentation is one of students’ favorite Black History Month activities.

“The project is well-designed, thoroughly documented and Mr. Gauthier’s presentation is captivating and memorable with an extensive array of supporting documents, photographs, illustrations, newspaper clippings, stories and other related content that engage students in critical thinking and help them develop knowledge, skills and analytical abilities,” Pop said.

“We are looking forward to having Mr. Gauthier this February again at our school as our media center’s special guest to celebrate Black History Month and learn more about the struggle for social justice and the efforts of the many civil rights activists against segregation, Black voter suppression and discriminatory practices.”

Dr. Dawn Jo Alexander, a GCPS teacher leader, said the partnership of the nation’s library with Gwinnett’s school and library systems is “a great example of organizations coming together to make teaching and learning engaging and authentic.”

“The LOC has thousands on thousands of primary sources that the Gwinnett County library system and schoolteachers can use to teach history in an age-appropriate and authentic manner. These resources are not just limited to Black History, they also tell the story of American History,” Alexander said. “At the end of the day that is what we want, authentic, rigorous learning that will stick with students for years to come.”

Mining history close to home

GCPL is looking for current and former Gwinnett residents willing to give first-hand accounts of how they were impacted by the voting rights and Civil Rights movements in this county.
Interviews will be recorded and maintained in the library’s first-ever collection of oral stories developed in-house, with funding from its Teaching with Primary Sources grant. Excerpts will be used in library programs about the Civil Rights movement for audiences of all ages, Penn said.

Of particular interest to the library are people who actively participated in organized movements for justice and equality for Black people; people who were personally impacted by segregation, discrimination, denial of the right to vote and other injustices; and people who lived in Gwinnett during the Civil Rights milestones.

“We really wanted to include a local component, so that people could see what happened down the street from where they currently live, basically,” Penn said. “And so, part of that is finding those first-person accounts to include in our materials so that students hear not just about the big events that many of us learned about in school, but also about how those events connected at the state level and at the local level.”

The first recording, produced in December, features a person who attended the only school for Black students in Gwinnett County for decades and who later, as an adult, helped spare it from demolition, Penn said.

Plans are to convert that school, the former Hooper Renwick School, into a museum and a new library branch.

The library system hopes to gather many more first-person accounts of experiences from the era of the Civil Rights movement.

“The library is an educational institution, and that’s for all ages, all members of the community,” Penn said. “Part of educating the community is educating us about each other. This is a big county, with a lot of people in it, and it’s still growing by quite a bit. Learning about each other’s history and culture and traditions is important for us to be able to live well together here.”

You can find a “Share your story” form at gwinnettpl.org/news/civil-and-voting-rights.

Find events and programs at Gwinnett Public Libraries

Donna Williams Lewis is a freelance journalist who covered metro Atlanta for decades as a writer and editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Mayor Mason Visits BIA Charter School for Mayor’s Reading Program



On Friday, September 8, Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason visited the BIA Charter School to read to the kindergarten class of Meredith Huxtable.

The mayor visited BIA as part of the Mayor’s Reading Club. Launched in August, the program is designed to support literacy skills and early reading success for children in Georgia cities. 

During his visit, the mayor read “Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall,” and answered student questions.  Following his reading of the book, the mayor took part in an interview conducted by the school’s morning news team, that was broadcast to the entire school.

The Mayor’s Reading Club was developed by Georgia City Solutions and is designed to foster partnerships between the city, county, local nonprofits, schools, libraries and businesses. Other elected officials, city staff, youth and community members can participate in the program as guest readers.

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Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers



Wesleyan GISA Master Teachers
Top Row from left, Juliette Ball, Paige Glass, bottom row from left, Suzanne Ragains and Laura Riester (Photo courtesy of Wesleyan School.

The Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) recently named four Wesleyan School faculty members GISA Master Teachers.

After completing a comprehensive application process through GISA this past spring, the following teachers were honored:

  • Juliette Ball, lower school lead teacher;
  • Paige Glass, lower school lead teacher;
  • Suzanne Ragains, a high school modern and classical languages teacher and
  • Laura Riester, middle school math teacher.

To be accepted into GISA’s Master Teacher program, candidates must submit a portfolio featuring three examples of outstanding work related to the classroom and collaborating with other educators.

The final part of the application is an unedited video of the candidate’s classroom teaching as well as five letters of recommendation from colleagues, administrators, parents and students.

“We are delighted that GISA has acknowledged the hard work of these committed educators through the Master Teacher program,” said Chris Cleveland, Wesleyan Head of School.

“Juliette, Paige, Suzanne, and Laura are outstanding classroom teachers and have been impacting the lives of Wesleyan students for many years. They are each deserving of this honor.”

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Paul Duke STEM High School Students Build a Legacy at National Conference



The PDSTSA chapter holding their trophies

From June 28 to July 2, the Paul Duke STEM High School Technology Student Association (PDSTSA) chapter left a lasting mark at the 2023 National Leadership Conference (NLC) in Louisville, Kentucky. The group’s dedication to their work and unwavering support from chaperones and advisors led to nine Top 10 finishes and four Top 3 placements. 

The Technology Student Association (TSA) is a national Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) compiled of passionate students who are thoroughly involved in STEM. TSA has over 200,000 members nationwide and 2,000 involved schools across 49 states.  

The theme of this year’s conference was “A Legacy of Innovation,” a theme that the PDSTSA chapter certainly excelled at. 

The PDSTSA chapter competed in the following areas: Data Science and Analytics, Video Game Design, Manufacturing Prototype, Future Technology Teacher, On Demand Video, Virtual Reality Visualization, Biotechnology Design and Geospatial Technology. Within each respective area, Paul Duke STEM High School (PDHS) had great success. 

Aside from regional and state-wide competitions, the PDSTSA chapter competed at the annual National Conference where expert judges score groups and individuals on more than 70 different STEM-based educational challenges that covered topics such as architecture, communication, engineering, leadership and technology research.

Pursuit of excellence

Within their group, the PDSTSA chapter had an impressive four awards given out to groups and individuals within places first through third. 

Notably, members Donald Iwejuo, Rohan Kumar, Hannah Le, Caleb Odunade, Mihir Pai, Rohan Pai, Phuong Truong and Keon Wilson won an astounding first place for their work in the Manufacturing Prototype category.

Manufacturing Prototype Team
Manufacturing Prototype Team

For their challenge, they were asked to create a Fourth of July-themed decoration. The team problem-solved and worked to create a customizable condiment and utensil holder with replaceable tops that incorporated the shapes of fireworks and the Liberty Bell, and symbols of the American flag, winning PDSTSA their first national title.

Additionally, within the realm of Data Science and Analytics, PDSTSA members Oswin Cervantes, Meagan Harris and Rohan Kumar took home third place by using and studying data found online and provided by them through science experiments involving Blue Zones teas, JASP (an open source program for statistical analysis) and the aging of Saccroymeces cerevisie (more commonly known as brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast).

Data Science and Analytics Team
Data Science and Analytics Team

In the category of Biotechnology Design, Chloe Au, Brandon Auyoung, Meagan Harris, Joshua Odunade, Quincy Robinson and Phuong Truong won third place for finding a solution to adequately address food preparation, storage and sustainability issues in space, specifically for a trip to Mars.

After creating a rocket-shaped display containing their solution, the team was awarded based on their problem-solving abilities. 

Biotechnology Design Team
Biotechnology Design Team

Caleb Odunade won third place in the solo category of Future Technology Teacher. For this category, competitors were required to choose an application that could be used for teaching and then demonstrate how to implement it in the classroom.

Odunade made a video for the preliminary round on how to use TinkerCAD, an engineering and 3D design application, and was challenged to also present a lesson plan he had designed. 

Caleb Odunade Future Technology Teacher
Caleb Odunade Future Technology Teacher

More notable accomplishments

However, the accomplishments didn’t end there. Others include:

  • Fourth place in Video Game Design for members Ali Akbar, Frank Hammock, Varun Iyengar, Rohan Kumar, Joshua Odunade and Sahana Parekh
  • Fifth place in Virtual Reality Visualization for members Aqil Afsar, Charlie Boalch, Rohan Kumar and Mihir Pai
  • Sixth place in Geospatial Technology for members Aqil Afsar, Mihir Pai and Rohan Pai
  • Sixth place for Future Technology Teacher awarded to member Myra Wu
  • Tenth place award in On Demand Video by members Baylor Brown, Abigail Donkor, Princess Igwe, Tristan Kim, Rohan Kumar, Caleb Odunade, Joshua Odunade, Rohan Pai and Landon Shell
Video Game Design Team
Video Game Design Team
Virtual Reality Visualization Team
Virtual Reality Visualization Team
Geospatial Technology Team
Geospatial Technology Team
Myra Wu Future Technology Teacher
On Demand Video Team
On Demand Video Team

More to come

This was only the PDSTSA team’s second time participating in the NLC. The team is excited with their success and are looking forward to working towards even greater success in the future. 

Check out the PDSTSA Instagram at @pdstsa. Learn more about TSA at tsaweb.org.

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