In late November, I was having a conversation with two fourth graders about the goings-on in their class. They were telling me about the importance of respecting each person in their class, regardless of differences. This conversation lead to the students sharing an artistic rendering of that theme, which I now proudly display in my office. The title of their work is, "Every Soul a Star." When in doubt, ask a child about what is really important.
Recognizing and respecting the differences amongst us should make us strong, proud, and empowered. One of the many things that makes James River a special place to learn and grow is the deep commitment to respect, empathy, and honoring each child as an individual. Equally important, we strive daily to be good citizens, holding ourselves to the high standards to which we all agree. When we commit to being the best version of ourselves and help others rise up, we truly are the community we strive to be.
As we approached Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, it was fitting that last week came to a conclusion with our weekly Lunch With Leaders. This month's cadre of leaders happens to be comprised of young women, and they have chosen to focus our discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The main focus has been on gender equity and what they see in the world around them. It is, after all, the world our children live in, and they are careful witnesses. James River's commitment to respect and empathy, as noted above, fosters an environment where our young leaders feel safe to ask tough questions about history and the broader world and begin to imagine how they will make a difference.
On the board at the beginning of our lunch was a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. which read, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." Our students, from the youngest to the oldest, aspire to be scholars, leaders, and citizens. I expect they will do so by lifting others up rather than by putting them down, for they seem to know already that every soul is a star.