Martin Luther King, Jr, believed “everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” The students, teachers and staff of Morley Elementary in West Hartford, CT, bring this quote to life through their dedication to the children of Deschapelles, Haiti.
On successive Fund for Teachers fellowships, two teams of teachers each departed Morley with supplies and a mission to establish, then deepen, a sister-school relationship in the mountains of Central Haiti. Jennifer La Forte, leader of the 2017 cohort, explained why.
“Our school is located in a suburban district and our school community has been historically
lacking in diversity,” said Jennifer. “As our student population has become more diverse and more reflective of the world, we felt a growing urgency to help our students develop understanding about and empathy for various cultures from around the world. Out of respect for the families in our school who are continuing to arrive with more and more diverse backgrounds, we decided to focus special attention to the country and people of Haiti in an effort to broaden our school community’s cultural perspective.”
Their initial fellowship led to a second team of Fellows’ return one year later. Inspired, two fourth graders launched a school-wide fundraising effort that now funds scholarships enabling four Haitian students to attend school. (Read more about their service learning project here.)
Everyone at Morley is now actively supporting their sister school, especially in this month of January, now annually referred to as “Haiti Month.”
“The two cohorts Fund for Teachers sent to Haiti are really busy this month,” said Principal Ryan Cleary. “They presented to everyone at school during our kick off assembly earlier this week, and are busy visiting classrooms all over the school to share their fellowship pictures, videos, stories, and overall experiences with students in a smaller setting. They are teaching students about the culture through art they collected and they talk about the needs in Haiti as it relates to the differences between their community and ours.”
“Our FFT Fellows make such an impact talking about their experiences, it brings these cultural competency lessons to a whole new level,” Cleary continued. “We remain committed to maintaining the scholarships for the students at our sister school and our students here at Morley truly understand why, but they also see beyond the need to also see the beauty of the country. All in all, its been an amazing experience, and as it continues to be — I am one happy principal!”
Today marks Dr. King’s birthday and the 25th anniversary of The MLK Day of Service, the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. The most successful projects, according to MLK.gov, are those that connect to the life and teaching of Dr. King and meet a pressing community need. For the Morley Elementary family, that community is a global one.
“There is no free public education in Haiti,” said Jennifer Dorl, team leader of the 2019 Fellow team. “A few of our summer campers, like Francique, second from left in the top photo, had not spent much time in school and were thrilled to participate in camp. Francique walked us home from camp each afternoon.”