- East Union Middle (ms)
Unity in the Community
“We can teach students segregation lessons about Little Rock Central High School and Brown vs. the Board of Education, but we don’t always talk about how history affected our school,” says Mr. McMurray, 8th grade social studies teacher about East Union’s 8th grade students’ Unity in the Community cross-curricular project.
ELA and social studies teachers created the opportunity for students to research civil rights leaders and write poems focusing on equality, integration, and civil rights. This is where the students began to take the lead in this project’s next steps! Student council representatives conducted tours and interviews with former students who had graduated from East Union when it was one of a few segregated schools in Union County. History has become real for our 8th graders instead of something students study in class.
Reverend Clay Parker, Ms. Omega Autry, Ms. Mattie Burns, Mr. Michael Zimmerman, and Mr. Billy Polk, all former students, graciously returned to their old alma mater to see how time has changed it since segregation. They also reflected on their time spent as students in the classrooms during a time of strife and upheaval in our nation. In their time talking with students, they left a message of hope, persistence, and the power within.
Student council representative, Tyquan Taylor said of the experience, “They [the former students] made me value education and not take it for granted because I noticed that it [education] wasn’t always given to African Americans. We should value it because we have got it easy.”This project culminated with an assembly in the auditorium with Reverand John J. Kirkpatrick’s speaking to students on the importance of empowerment of self,making the right choices and asking, “What can I do to be a better person?”
Mrs. Arlene McAdams, Student Success coordinator at East Union and 1969 graduate, was instrumental in helping facilitate the visits by the former East Union School students. This school holds a big place in Mrs. McAdams’s heart and she said, “This for me was a surreal experience, this diversity in this school, to see this is awesome. I never imagined that my children and grandchildren would attend this school. East Union was established for the African American students in the area. I am proud to be a part of the evolution of East Union, Marshville Elementary, Forest Hills High School, and the Union County Public School system.”
Mrs. McAdams hopes that the students at East Union will continue the work that she and her classmates began by demanding equality in schools and future workplaces. She says she has been proud to showcase the positive changes and diversity that is now a regular part of the school she attended. She and her classmates are proud to call East Union their Alma Mater. Although they faced many challenges, such as people being opposed to desegregation, having to use old books and outdated materials, and attending school on split terms, they met each challenge head-on and stayed together. They became adults who are contributing to society. They still have East Union School reunions and spend time together. McAdams says, “This is the history of East Union, that my classmates were so proud to walk these halls after more than 50 years ago.”