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Movers and Shakers in Action: South Arbor Students Making a Difference

National Heritage Academies (NHA) believes in building the whole student, heart and mind included. This is evident at South Arbor Charter Academy.

Meet Carrington Walter, fifth-grade student at South Arbor, who recently had the opportunity to interview the State of Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, the first African American to serve in this position. ​​​​​​​

Fifth graders normally do a Black History Wax Museum each year, however, they modified the plan this year and are doing it differently. In addition to researching and presenting about a famous African American, students were able to submit extra credit. Carrington’s interview was an extension part of the project.

“I was very proud of Carrington,” said Nicole Lopes, fifth-grade teacher at South Arbor. “She expressed that she was extremely nervous about this interview, so I know it took a lot of courage for her to do this. She did an amazing job!”

A standout question Carrington asked was, “What is it like to know you’re the first African American Lieutenant Governor of Michigan?’ Lt. Governor Gilchrist explained that in addition to what he’s responsible for in his role, he’s also responsible for ensuring that a lot of people, especially people of color, can see themselves in his leadership. He wants to set an example of the leadership heights people can aspire to, that they are within their reach if they decide that’s what they want to do, and it’s possible because it was possible for someone like him.

Bondy was amazed by Carrington’s poise. “She looked effortless while doing this interview,” she said. “I was impressed with all of the questions that she asked and that she owned that interview.”

Carrington went on to ask what advice he would give to students like herself as they work through the COVID-19 pandemic. “Acknowledge that it’s weird to attend school remotely,” said Gilchrist. “Be patient with yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Ask those big questions and try to have fun.”

The two were even able to connect on a more personal level when Carrington shared that her cousin is Gilchrist’s former basketball coach. He shared that the biggest lesson he learned from him was to always know your personnel. “I think about that even now as a leader and having a team, I need to know how I can make sure people are in the position to be successful.”

Of course, she added in some fun questions, such as, “Coke or Pepsi?,” “Winter or Summer?,” and the biggest question when you live in the mitten state, “Michigan or Michigan State?”

Gilchrist had the opportunity to ask Carrington questions, one of which was: “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during Black History Month this year?” She explained that she liked researching Nat Turner and preparing and researching Gilchrist in preparation for the interview!

Check out their full conversation here.

Continuing the ambition to make a difference, meet Joziah Jason, fifth-grade student at South Arbor, who recently launched a podcast called “R.E.A.D Books with Joziah,” which stands for “Read, Explore, Adore and Discuss.” Through the podcast, he reviews books, highlights his favorite parts, and aims to inspire others to pick up a book.

In his most recent episode, Jason took a look at R.E.A.D Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia. “The book also inspired me to talk with Darius Simpson from the documentary ‘Finding the Gold Within’ to learn more about how myths can help you men learn more about self-reflection when guided by the right mentors,” said Jason.

“I am so excited to see students like Joziah going above and beyond!” said Bondy. “This last year has been tough in so many ways, and I love that when faced with adversity that people choose to rise above, keep learning, and stand out. Joziah is learning great life skills that will take him far in life.”

Check out MLive sharing Joziah’s podcast journey.

Bondy shared that at South Arbor they often talk about working with students and families to help students succeed in high school and beyond. “We want our students to be well-prepared as they head off to the next chapter of life with a solid foundation of content and work skills. In addition, we want our students to be good citizens. Our Moral Focus curriculum keeps this a consistent topic. The focus on the monthly virtues as a topic of conversation helps bridge a gap between home and school on being a good person and contributing to our community.”