October 6th, 2000
Each day brings more reports about wonderful events being planned for the 17th, both in schools and within city-wide events. We love hearing the details because then we can pass along the great ideas.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
New material on the website
You will find two new versions of the Pledge for those students who have taken part before. The new Pledges, corresponding to the original older-student and elementary-school pledges, are "reaffirmation" pledges that call for a reconnection with the earlier promise. (Educators whom I very much respect have told me that not only is it not a bad thing to bring the Pledge back to students who have signed it before, but that repetition and reinforcement are the very essence of good teaching and learning.) To preview or download these versions, click here.
We have added information about an exciting way to strengthen students' sense of interconnectedness on the Day of National Concern. A national web broadcast by, for, and about teens - teenwebtalk.com - is devoting ten hours on October 17 to a Day of National Concern broadcast. Young people from now until the 17th can call in to record a message or they can call in live on the 17th . They can talk about their school's planned activities, can report (on the 17th) their school's pledge tallies, and can exchange ideas about ways in which they, as individuals and as a generation, can play a role in ending gun violence. To record a message before the 17th, call, toll-free, 1-877-531-TALK (8255). To participate in the live broadcast on the 17th, call 877-532-TALK (8255).
The broadcast will include excerpts from different events and programs going on in schools around the country. If you would like your school to be featured on the broadcast, send an e-mail to email@example.com as soon as possible.
Also new on the website: an event-planning packet created for and distributed to every Student Council in Minnesota by the office of Minnesota's U.S. Attorney, Todd Jones. It has some great graphics, including a template for Student Pledge banners and bookmarks, and could be used by any student group planning an event.
We have added (with permission) two pages of some terrific curriculum ideas from James Michael Wine and his brother Charlie, creaters of the VOW Project, an interdisciplinary curriculum using the arts to teach non-violence. Their web site is www.ivow.net.
Also, by later today or tomorrow, we will have added Spanish versions of the Pledge to the site. We are doing this in response to special requests for a Spanish version; we only regret not having provided this long before now.
Once again, there is exciting news from Chicago. Chicago White Sox superstar, Frank Thomas, "the Big Hurt," recorded a message to young people in connection with the Day of National Concern and the Student Pledge. The videotape will appear on Chicago's "Crimewatchers," and the audio message will be part of Chicago's Day of Concern radio broadcast on B-96 and teenwebtalk.com's all-day broadcast on the 17th as well.
Help from a number of sources has brought innumerable requests for information. Governor Christine Todd Whitman (NJ) wrote to all of her fellow state governors, urging their support for the Day of Concern and Student Pledge, and the response has been gratifying.
Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton of Minneapolis has again been gracious with her help. She has written to all the mayors in the US Conference of Mayors. Superintendent Terry Hillard, Chicago's Police Chief, has written to all the major city chiefs. If you are in a large city, call your mayor's office and your city's police chief to see if they will support your efforts. Many are waiting to be asked!
The latest issue of Family Circle Magazine (Nov. 1) has a nice follow-up piece on the Student Pledge. It's called "Peace Sign," and appears on p. 16.
Inside School Safety's October edition has a nice front-page story on the Student Pledge. Check it out for more good ideas.
We have been pleased to read that youth homicides have been continuing to decline for the past few years. And just this week, we read that incidents involving guns in school are down 4% from last year. The National Center for Health Statistics attributes the drop in youth homicides, at least in part, to "increased awareness." I would like to think that all of our efforts have contributed to that increased awareness.
A BEAUTIFUL IDEA
We will try to send out one more newsletter before the 17th with examples of events that will be going on in cities around the country. For now, however, I want to mention just two, because they both include an idea that some of you may want to include in your own observances.
A school outside of Detroit, Birmingham Covington School in Birmingham, MI, has invited 200 4th and 5th graders from an inner-city Detroit school to join them in a partnership event. During the morning, the students will go from one "station" to another, with one station featuring the making of canvasses, one featuring story telling and/or music, one station featuring children doing dramatic presentations. After lunch, the students of both schools will join hands, making a human chain, and recite the Pledge together. (The oral recitation will be in addition to the signing of paper copies of the Pledge.)
At St. Mary's, Star of the Sea School in Chicago, two schools will also come together - one of them public, one private. On the 16th, students from both schools will go on a Pledge Walk, "joining hands, convictions, and commitments to sign the Pledge on the 17th." Their next day, the 17th, will be full of activities, visiting dignitaries, and connection to the live radio broadcast from Chicago's commercial station, B96. The day will end with a walk around the school to symbolize the taking of the students' commitments out into the world.
The idea of having students in the school join hands as they recite the Pledge seems powerfully symbolic of the way in which all of us - in our schools, towns and cities, and even within our national community - are important links in an unbroken chain. What affects one of us affects all of us.
If this is something you think students in your school might want to do, you could enhance the experience by downloading the song "Join Hands" from the VOW Project's web site and playing it over the school's p.a. system. The song tells the story of two young people whose lives were cut short by guns and ends with the "Join Hands" chorus.
Another beautiful idea, although not new, is asking older students to use the Day of National Concern as a springboard for service projects in elementary schools. The children's books, "The Gorp's Gift" by Sherri Chessen and "Just One Flick of a Finger" by Marybeth Lorbiecki would provide an excellent lead-in for older students to talk to younger students about staying safe and for telling them about their own commitment to end gun violence. And older students could supervise art projects using the Pledge hands, oversee the planting of memorial bulbs, etc. These activities could continue into the weeks following the Day of National Concern. Each year, we learn of a few more places where this idea is being implemented.
SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
Enclosed is a sample press release. The national release will add specific examples of events going on around the country. Feel free to adapt it to your own use, adding to it the details of your own local observance. Since part of the mission of the day is to give students around the country a sense of connectedness that suggests their power, individually and collectively, to reverse gun violence, letting the media know what you are doing is one way for that sense of connection to grow.
Good luck as you continue planning for your Day of National Concern events. Please stay in touch and let us know what you are planning and be sure to take pictures, report your tallies, and save any news of the day to share with the rest of us. A lot of creative energy is at work out there!
Let us know how we can support your efforts.
With all best wishes,
Mary Lewis Grow, National Coordinator