A class of fifth-graders from Vaux Middle School came to Temple last Tuesday for a special program sponsored by Temple University’s Sexual Assault Counseling and Education group (SACE). About 20 students spent the afternoon in SAC where they enjoyed games, activities, a special visit from a member of an African storytelling group, as well as lunch provided by the university.
Tamara Brooks is a first year teacher at Vaux Middle School and has been working with the class for several weeks now, permanently replacing substitute teachers that were formerly in charge of the class. Friends with SACE coordinator Pam Freeman, the two worked together on the project as a means to bring the young students into contact with Temple, it’s students and staff.
“I want them to understand that college can be something really good for them. I want them to have a positive experience at Temple today, hopefully come away feeling good about what they’re doing here,” said Brooks. She also mentioned an upcoming project where members of SACE will visit the middle school. Brooks’ class, along with the help of many parents, will be preparing and teaching the SACE staff about a wide variety of ethnic foods.
Members of SACE had decorated a conference room on the third floor of the SAC with balloons and collage style posters depicting images of influential African-Americans. Steam tables at the rear of the room offered hot dogs and chicken fingers for lunch, along with plenty of soda that seemed to add a little extra energy to the day’s proceedings.
Freeman, along with several undergraduate peer counselors started the day by introducing themselves with a name game and briefly discussing what the group is about. Peer counselors Janitta Crockett, Nickkiiah Parks, and Carissa Morrison spoke to the children about sexual and personal harassment, emphasizing awareness of improper behavior and the right to be treated with respect.
“It’s important for children to be educated early about inappropriate behaviors and actions. Kids need to understand they have the power and the right to say ‘No’. Having respect for oneself and for others is key,” said Morrison.
Crockett said the experience was meant to be an educational one for both Brooks’ students and the SACE counselors. “This is a real give and take of information here. We want to show that we all learn from each other, and that not all ideas are equal.”
During a trivia game, the 5th graders surprised the counselors with their knowledge of figures in African American history such as Langston Hughes and Harriet Tubman. When the students were asked to identify prominent figures in black history, nearly all of them responded with the name of a different musician, writer, or other figure.
Traditional storyteller Guina Hammond led the students in an interactive, signing story about a girl named Nina. Hammond used the story of Nina to capture the attention and imagination of the students while educating them about their shared cultural heritage as African-Americans. Hammond also brought several traditional African instruments that she introduced and used during the story.