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PDMS students stitch together a powerful legacy of unity and inclusion

If you take a stroll through Piedmont Middle’s main hallway, you’ll find a large orange banner that, at first glance, looks like it could be the latest installment of student artwork. But once you take a closer look, you’ll see that it is much, much more.

In celebration of Unity Day on Oct. 24, Piedmont Middle unveiled its Unity Banner, a 25-foot-long fabric banner comprised of more than 1,000 messages encouraging unity, kindness and inclusion. Completed by students, staff, community members and volunteers, the banner is the culmination of a weeks-long initiative that encouraged a spirit of inclusion in the school.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal. It’s a permanent positive banner that represents every single soul who laid hands on Piedmont Middle this year. It’s a voice and a thought from every single student and staff member,” said Piedmont Middle art teacher Margaret James, adding that several of her students even volunteered their time to help sew each of the squares together. “We wanted it to be meaningful for the students because kids want to be heard. Our students are setting the standard for kindness, acceptance and inclusion.”

Piedmont Middle counselor Rena McGee-Helms said inclusion has always been a part of the school’s culture. Their goal for Unity Day was to have students, in their own words, put that spirit of inclusion on display for everyone to see.

“The programs that we have – the deaf and hard of hearing and autism programs – we don’t have to teach the students how to be inclusive because they live it every day. Piedmont Middle is a naturally inclusive environment,” she said. “After spending three years here, inclusion just flows naturally and our students are used to it.”

Many of the squares on the Unity Banner included messages or hand-drawn artwork about the importance of teamwork, being a part of the Piedmont family or even spreading kindness throughout the school. That, several of the students said after the unveiling, is simply the “Piedmont Way.”

After reading through some of the messages, eighth grader Sarah Caruso said it was amazing to see the hundreds of messages included on the completed banner.

“Everyone had one small part. When we were writing our messages, it just seemed like it didn’t look that big or that we would be able to make much from it,” she said. “But once we put all of the messages together, all of those little pieces created something really big. It was amazing to see that everyone from Piedmont is a part of that.”

 long quilt