Kids Who Care

Alexander Hamilton Academy students care about:

Eliminating bullying and halting the spread of malaria

Spotlight on: Alexander Hamilton Academy
Paterson, NJ

Grades K-8

Students at Alexander Hamilton Academy may be young in age, but already they have built up a reputation as seasoned activists for a noble cause. They also have honed the art of listening to others, a quality that has helped them to implement two totally different service-learning projects, “Students ‘Speak’ Out against Bullying” and “Save a Life: Malaria Awareness Project.”

In conjunction with the students at Montgomery Upper Middle School (the lead partner in their PACES pod), eighth graders at Hamilton read Speak, a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that focused on a young girl who was unable to speak up about being sexually abused. In the dialogue that followed the reading, the Hamilton students explored possible issues in their own school about which students were often silent. After much discussion, they vowed to do something to alleviate the anguish caused by bullying. Working collaboratively, they investigated the issue, posited research-based remedies, and designed an anti-bullying policy to be implemented at Alexander Hamilton Academy. Not only did they learn how bullying was disruptive to students at Hamilton, an inner-city school, but also they met face-to-face with their suburban counterparts from Montgomery UMS who shared similar experiences. The most frequent comment heard during this exchange between students from these two demographically different schools was: “Why, these kids are just like us.”

The interchange with Montgomery UMS also served as the inspiration for another campaign to eradicate injustice and needless suffering. Montgomery students were already hard at work in raising funds to purchase mosquito nets for African communities that needed them desperately to save lives that would be destroyed by malaria. Moved by the passion of their partners, the Hamilton students designed and implemented their own project. They informed the public by designing brochures and posters, and the older children taught the younger ones about malaria, its spread, and the need for protective nets. They also were involved in a fund-raising campaign. 

“I asked my relatives at Christmas to give money for the nets instead of giving it to me,” said one youngster whose spirit of enterprise was propelled by the force of empathy.

Vicki McKiernan, the technology coordinator of Hamilton’s School Leadership Team, who has spearheaded many of the service-learning projects, points out these initiatives have also developed

“respect, responsibility and civic-mindedness” in the students and imbued them with the belief that they have “the power to change the world.”

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