NOTE: THIS ARTICLE FIRSTR APPEARED IN THE D & C. DUE TO A SERVER CHANGE, SOME OF THE PICTURES ARE MISSING. SEE Reflecting on the 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins at Robert Brown High School
• March 5, 2015
Dr. Rita Gaither and Staci Feola-Elbadry, under the leadership of Principal David Grant, have taken their curriculum to a new level.
Last week I was invited to a special event hosted by the Robert Brown School of Construction and Design Food and Nutrition class taught by Gaither and Feola-Elbadry. There, students celebrated Black History Month as they reflected upon the impact of the 1960 Greensboro NC Woolworth lunch counter sit ins.
The students arranged their classroom/kitchen area to resemble the look and feel of that bygone store that sold toiletries to housewives and offered milkshakes to teeny boppers. The mood shifted, however, when the students performed a skit invoking the spirit of four young African Americans who stood up—or down—against social injustice when they sat at a “White Only” lunch counter in Woolworth’s and refused to leave after being denied service.
The audience, which included Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Allen Williams, City of Rochester Director of Special Projects & Education, and Keith Babuszczak, Chief of RCSD Innovation for Career Pathways and Integrated Learning, were moved that 55 years later, young people still admired the courage and conviction of their earlier counterparts. Through the project, students made insightful correlations about insidious forms of inequalities of race, ethnicity and economic status in comparison to their own educational and cognitive intricacies.
This is not the first time this class has impressed me by thinking outside the standard curriculum box. As I have written about before (see Hands on at Edison with Rita Gaither), the Food and Nutrition Program serves a special group of students who are considered within the New York State Alternate Assessment framework (about 1 percent of the District’s population). Food and Nutrition education are only one part of the Program which also focuses on life skills, independent living, self-sufficiency, attainable occupational goals and community involvement.
This year alone the class has been involved in multiple community activities: held a Thanksgiving dinner at the Flint Street Rec Center, assisted a ninety three year old woman pay her RG&E bill, visited an elderly woman who had heart surgery, worked with pregnant or parenting teams in the Pathways to Success Program, collected items for newcomers from all over the world, and participated in three bereavement activities for local youth and community members. They also went on the Mayor’s clergy walk and acted as the Mayor’s ambassador by passing out recreation and job literature. And, students work closely with the Somali Community in Western New York to assist refugees and newcomers in their transition into the US.
So how did the class pull off this latest performance?
As explained to me by Dr. Gaither, it took a lot of hard work. It involved: extensive background research, interviewing people from the era, collecting artifacts, experimenting with recipes of the era, studying civil rights vocabulary words, designing costumes, gathering donations of food, paper productions and props by partnering with Food link and Wegmans, shopping for food, creating a menu, preparing food, establishing a guest list, communicating with the Mayor’s office, booking the multimedia department, booking a photographer, designing and printing posters, programs and letters to parents. Or, as Gaither says, “Practice, practice, practice.”
As you can see, to Gaither and Feola-Elbadry a class in Food and Nutrition is about a lot more than food. And the results speak for themselves. All afternoon the students beamed as they saw the final unfolding of the project — preparing and serving an entire 1960 lunch counter menu for over 200 people including ice-cream floats!
Stay tuned for the Robert Brown Food and Nutrition Program’s.