A Dallas Principal — and Former Troublemaker — Uses School Clubs to Teach Kids: ‘You Have a Voice’

As a group of students at Dallas’ O.W. Holmes Middle School patiently waited to thread beads and make jewelry, eighth-grade science teacher Shemetria Perow finished threading her message through the lesson.She talked about striving for accuracy, both in the craft the students were about to complete, and in math and science classes.Then, she turned to one of the jewelry club’s officers.“Now, Secretary, the next thing on our agenda is ... bracelets. Let’s make bracelets,” Perow said.The jewelry club is a small part of an expansive program launched by principal Sharron Jackson, aimed at getting all of her 802 students into an extracurricular activity. On the last Friday of each month, 43 clubs — with interests ranging from Magic: The Gathering to Russian Language and Culture — meet in the last hour of the school day.The hobby or craft, however, is just the start of it.The T.R. Lee Leadership Academy, as Jackson named it, is designed to engage students in taking an active leadership role in their club, help them plan and complete a community service project, and pick up successful habits to boot.“I didn’t want these kids going to high school feeling like they can’t make a difference,” Jackson said. “I want to plant a seed in them that they can be engaged in the community in a way that doesn’t mean that you have to be on the honor roll. It just means you have a voice.”For sixth-grade student Isaiah Blakely, Perow’s club was something familiar.“I liked creating stuff like this when I was little, and I got a chance to do it here in middle school,” Isaiah said, showing off a green bracelet he made in October.  Continue reading...

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