For one week, Greenville County Schools students at United Way’s OnTrack schools substituted their curriculum for one on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
Although South Carolina’s current educational standards require students to learn about King in kindergarten, fifth grade, sixth grade, and high school, the requirements are based on the facts of his life and the national holiday, rather than his core beliefs. In South Carolina’s proposed 2020 educational standards, King isn’t mentioned at all.
Cindy McGrath, volunteer engagement manager with United Way of Greenville County, said the goal was to get students thinking about what they can do to impact their communities.
“For me it was more of, what can we do to engage students in the classroom and get them to really understand this beyond these four walls,” McGrath said.
Students at Berea, Tanglewood, Lakeview, and Greenville Early College middle schools spent last week discussing ways they can emulate King in their own communities.
Jennifer Czar, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Berea Middle, introduced her students to Georgia Gilmore — an African-American woman who fundraised for the Montgomery Bus Boycott through baking.
“We discussed how can you contribute to your community,” Czar said. “We talked about volunteering and using your special talents to help make things better.”
Dacorey Massey, an eighth-grader in the class, said he enjoyed the weeklong change of pace in the curriculum and said they primarily discussed what Gilmore believed and how she used her talents to impact the world.
Blake Dellapietro, an eighth-grade student in the class, said without people like King, Rosa Parks, and Gilmore, the nation would still be segregated.
“No one [else] really wanted to change,” Dellapietro said. “Change is good in certain ways.”
Massey said if he could meet King, he would thank him.
“He was one of the best people that ever lived,” Massey said. “(Without King) we wouldn’t have been here today as family and friends.”