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Citizens Academy presents A Celebration of Diversity

On Thursday, October 27th, we attended "A Celebration of Diversity" put on by the students at the Citizens Academy, The Mahatma Gandhi Campus, a K-5 school, located on Hampton Avenue near the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

We had met Ms. Susan Ertle, Executive Director of Friends of Breakthrough Schools (which includes the Citizens Academy) at the City Club last week and she graciously invited us to this program. This was the second time that we have been to this facility; we were there in October, 2015 when the Mahatma Gandhi campus was officially dedicated "to peace and non-violence."

When we arrived we were greeted by Mr. Andy Friebel, Academic Coordinator, who distributing one book to each child who was present that night. Several of the titles were "Lillian's Right to Vote", "Who was Gandhi?", and "Sesame Street-We're Different, We're the Same."img_5671

Once we were in the auditorium we said hello to Ms. Ertle and Ms. Karen Solomon, Director of Annual Funds for Friends of Breakthrough Schools, who were getting ready to serve some delicious looking Indian Food from the "Saffron Patch" after the program. We later learned that Dr. img_5688Suresh Bafna, who was there with his wife, Ms. Guniya Bafna, bought the food for all of us. A very generous supporter of the Mahatma Gandhi Campus, Dr. Bafna had also arranged for it to have good sound equipment to used for assemblies like this one.

Soon after being seated, we were welcomed by Mrs. Kimberly Peterlin, the school principal, who introduced the choir and its director, Ms. Keita Sa'ad. There were a total of only 14 singers but Ms. Sa'ad said, "what we lack in numbers we make up in heart!"

The choir then started the program with a rendition of "The Man in the Mirror." Next came a newly formed group called the "Stepping for Peace Steppers" composed of seven students who joined together to perfom in unison a type of rhythmic rap/spoken word number for several minutes that included the words, "Peace this Chain will Never be Broken!" Next a group of five students took to the stage to read some short diversity poems and then another five-person group assembled to play "Skin and Bones" on simple instruments under the guidance of Ms. Judy Schuman, the music teacher.

img_5667At this point, the choir returned to sing, "Something Inside So Strong" by Mr. Labi Siffre, a South African activist. Ms. Sa'ad said that it was fitting that this song be performed here because Mahatma Gandhi spent time in South Africa and was inspired by their freedom movement so he took it back to India with him.

The program closed with a film that contained clips of the young students saying what they could personally do to promote peace and nonviolence. Some of the things that they said were, "treat others the way I would like to be treated", "telling friends not to use violence to express yourself", "promote peace by being a problem solver", and "be nice at recess."img_5693

Afterwards, Ms. Beth Crossen, the school's data analyst took us on a tour of the campus were we got to see the a beautiful mural that had just been painted a few days ago that contained the words, "perseverance, courage, and responsibility."

As we were leaving we looked at our souvenir booklet and discovered that it contained some writing which read, "We are happy and honored to host the second annual Celebration of Diversity! Through the efforts of many people, this day is presented to celebrate our willingness to come together as one for the greater good of the students and families who attend our school. Many continued thanks to our honored donors as well as the men and women who work, diligently so that Citizens Academy, The Mahatma Gandhi Campus is a place of learning, love, and respect for all cultures."

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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