ST. LOUIS (KSDK) — At St. Gabriel the Archangel Elementary School in south city, there are a lot of eager students — but very little diversity.
“The make-up of our students is pretty much caucasian. We’re about 97 percent caucasian, “said St. Gabriel Principal Ann Davis.
But on Mondays and Thursdays in the month of February, the old classrooms take on a new look.
“I’m reading the story of Lincoln and Douglass and it’s about friendship, “said 14-year-old Da’Rez Yarber.
Yarber is part of a program called Readers 2 Leaders. Eighth graders from De Le Salle middle school help teach St. Gabriel third graders about black history.
De La Salle is located in the Ville neighborhood in north St. Louis.
“Our students are one hundred percent African-American, “said Principal Phil Pusateri. “About 88 percent of our student qualify for free or reduced priced lunch.”
Often, De Le Salle students are the recipient of community outreach. But with Readers 2 Leaders, it’s the opposite.
“Our students are the leaders and own black history, ” Pusateri said. “Owning and being empowered by teaching black history.”
The program is the brainchild of Bryan Sokol, who runs the Center for Service and Community engagement at St. Louis University. He brought the two schools together as a way to break down barriers.
“And then I think it’s important to give children a voice, “Sokol said. ” And this program empowers both the St. Gabriel and De La Salle students.”
At this table, Uniqua Morris is reading about the first lady of civil rights Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a city bus. The story’s message seems to resonate, even with 8 year olds.
“People have different beliefs and people have to stand up for what you believe, ” 8-year-old Caroline Breville said.
When they finish each book, the students work together to construct what they call little museums to help the lessons they learn come alive.
“Today we’re learning about Henry Box Brown and how he escaped from slavery, ” said 9-year-old Joey Hanks while showing us his project.
The students work together to construct what they call little museums to help the lessons they learn come alive.
“I just hope they learn something new, ” 14 year old Amarii Reece said. “Cause I like learning new things. I learn many things from them and I hope they learn many things from me.”
Now in it’s third year, both schools are convinced that reading together is helping these kids come together. In fact, they felt that way after year one.
“We did a pre- post test and the response from the kids, “recalled Davis. “They didn’t see color.”
“Readers 2 Leaders”- showing that diversity is the one thing we all have in common.