CLINTON HILL — Smiling. Treating others with respect. Running for president.
That’s how students at Urban Assembly Unison School, at 170 Gates Avenue, are pledging to spread love instead of hate following this year’s divisive presidential election.
The middle school students, who come from a wide range of backgrounds, filled out their pledges the day after the election on heart-shaped pieces of paper stating their name, age, where they are from and how they will spread love.
Students wrote down how they would spread love instead of hate on these heart-shaped pledges. Courtesy: Urban Assembly Unison School.
Now their pledges will be printed in a calendar created by local artists and teachers, who will use the proceeds to fund student uniforms, free entry to the 8th grade prom, and student trips to Washington, D.C.
The Hearts Project was created by drama teacher Jessica Mazo, who started class the day after the election by sitting her students down in a circle and asking them to share their feelings about the results.
She then had her students fill in and color the heart-shaped pledges, which she hung in the halls of the school.
"That was a helpful boost for the school community so students could see their opinions are valued," assistant principal Amy Piller said.
The hearts were soon joined by a blank bulletin board where students were encouraged to write their thoughts about the election.
Piller said the dialogue was necessary at a school where 70 percent of students are African American, 15 percent are Hispanic, and 10 percent of students are East Asian or other.
Of those students, 90 percent live in homes that fall below the poverty line, more than 25 percent are English-language learners, 15 percent live in temporary housing and more than 15 percent live in foster homes.
Artwork by artist Steve Powers represents several student pledges. Courtesy: Urban Assembly Unison School.
"Because of those factors, oftentimes their voices are less heard and we wanted to give them an opportunity to have a voice," Piller said.
"We wanted to affirm that we’re a school committed to diversity and inclusion, and that we’re a safe space for all children."
The school teamed up with eight local artists, including prominent Brooklyn-based artist Steve Powers, to create original art for the calendar, which is being sold on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
The proceeds will go toward the school’s PTA to fund student uniforms and activities. While the school initially set out to raise $2,000, it had already raised $3,050 from 51 backers as of Saturday.
Piller said that if the school raises $7,000 by Dec. 23, when the crowdfunding campaign closes, it will be able to send the full 8th grade class to Washington, D.C.
To purchase a calendar, check out the school’s Kickstarter page here. Calendars will ship before the new year.