Nottingham Key Club Helps Diversify Van Duyn Classroom Library
Published on 2/25/21
District News Nottingham High School Van Duyn Elementary School
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard for students in the Nottingham Key Club to fulfill their mission: finding meaningful community service projects that they can organize.
The club partnered with the Building Men Program in the fall to donate to Golisano Children’s Hospital. They took part in Corcoran’s 44-mile challenge to remember a community member who passed away there – walking and running a total of more than 75 miles (individually, masked and socially distant). But students still felt the need to do something more personal. They had planned to give out candy at Halloween, but their efforts were dampened by the pandemic.
“I think people in general want to do nice things for other people,” Tom Little, Key Club advisor, said. “That is certainly true for these kids! But we don’t have a lot of ways to do that right now – to see the benefit and have the connectivity of what we’re doing right now.”
Mr. Little heard of one of his former students – Thien An Huynh-Boyle, now a Van Duyn teacher – who had created an Amazon Wish List to cultivate a library of diverse books for her classroom. He thought: what if the Key Club adopted a classroom?
“I thought it would be cool because they could see the benefit of what they’re doing – to help other students in the district and pay it forward to those students who could be in their shoes at Nottingham one day,” Mr. Little explained. “We started the drive in January. At that time of year, in Syracuse, people are just drained – they don’t have a lot of feel good energy. Giving back can give you that energy.”
Students in the Key Club immediately jumped on board, crafting a letter to distribute among the Nottingham community of families, educators and alumni. Thanks to their efforts, Ms. Huynh-Boyle’s class received more than 18 new, culturally diverse books.
“We're so excited to have received the support from our school and greater Syracuse community,” Nottingham junior Martine Dosa said. “It feels really important and special to me that younger students will be able to see themselves in the books they're reading. Children of color deserve to be celebrated and uplifted. As these kids are learning to read and to develop other literacy skills, it should be a celebration of themselves.”
Classmate and fellow Key Club member Nafisa Jeilani said she connected with the cause of providing young students with books showing diversity.
“It makes me overwhelmed with joy knowing that such a diverse group of students will finally be able to have literature that appeals to their identities,” Nafisa said. “Growing up, it wasn’t easy for me to find books with a little black girl or hijabi as the main character. It made me feel alone and left out. But knowing that younger students can grow up feeling represented just through the work of our Key Club is just a dream come true.”
Moving forward, the Key Club is brainstorming a school supply drive to benefit the North Side Learning Center, as well as their usual non-COVID activities including ‘Haunted Ham’ and a Relay for Life fundraiser.
If you would like to contribute to the Key Club’s Van Duyn book effort, please visit: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2S1FK0YE62H8J?ref_=wl_share.