EDGEWOOD — When Edgewood Elementary reopened in 2012, Principal Judi Shafer knew the key to creating a successful school community would be to embrace the diversity of students and staff coming from other schools.
"The meaning of our positive message to our students — recognizing diversity, teamwork and celebrating our success — has helped unite our school," Shafer said.
"It is a diverse world, and we work with all different types of people. If we don't teach the children that message right now, then we've missed our mark as educators," she explained.
In less than two years, Shafer noted, the school has earned an "A" rating from the Indiana Department of Education and won three out of four city basketball championships.
The school incorporated the success of its diversity message into a Feb. 28 school-wide celebration of Black History Month. The overall theme of the program was "Remembering and Celebrating 50 years of Civil Rights — Rights to be ME!"
The program included a poster parade; a singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often referred to as the black national anthem; and a Native American-style dance by the Anderson High School Indian and maiden mascots.
There were also presentations about The Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves to escape to free states and Canada with help from free blacks and abolitionists.
Schneida Burgess, librarian and resource teacher at Edgewood and the new Killbuck Kindergarten Extension, helped organize the school programs and dressed in period costumes to engage students and depict the civil rights era.
Burgess said said one of her primary goals throughout February was teaching both history and the importance of diversity. Remembering the past is vital for knowing and understanding your personal history, she explained.
Students in Cathy Dowd's fourth-grade class spent time reading books about Martin Luther King and other African-American civil rights leaders. They also watched movies and learned, among other things, that some white college students played important roles in the civil rights movement.