Who better to introduce “We Matter: Notes from DC’s Generation Z,” by local seventh-grade students, than their incredible teacher?
Check out Brookland Middle School teacher Rushinda McCullough’s moving introduction below:
One Zen Buddhism quote states “How you do anything is how you do everything.” When initially given the task to facilitate this school’s first-ever Journalism class, I had one question: “Which students would be enrolled?” The principal answered, “Some of your students from last year.” I was then sold! As their sixth grade administrator, I thought about the aforementioned quote because these students had such powerhouse mindsets, which had led me to want to follow them through their middle school career. This was a perfect opportunity to stay connected even though they had moved on to seventh grade.
Once school began, we didn’t have to do introductions or initial greetings because not only did I have great relationships with the scholars, but also with their families. Needless to say, on the very first day of class they had homework! Over the course of this school year, I have observed these rosebuds blossom in their thinking. In addition to the complexities of writing and editing, they analyzed, discussed, refuted, and analyzed again. The reasoning to write beyond a word count maximum to get their point across to the reader began to slowly replace the complaints of writing one paragraph and exactly stopping at five sentences – they were maturing without knowing.
A transplant by way of Rochester, New York, I’ve grown to love DC, affectionately nicknamed “Chocolate City.” I learned that DC is composed of Wards, much like states have towns and cities. Though the scholars in this cohort call different Wards of the city home, the people across DC are the same: genuine.
DC is a city of colorful personalities. My class reflects the culture of the community. The boys’ personalities range from curious to competitive to comedic to brash. The girls are a bit more serious, demure, and eloquently expressive. But, most importantly, all of the students are equally smart! These students have the drive to go after what they want and claim stake! They push each other academically and with the intention to do better than the day before.
Throughout the creation of this masterpiece, the authors have endured many societal changes that will forever be etched in their memories: NBA player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020, Entrepreneur B. Smith died from her long battle with Alzheimer’s disease in February 2020, and, in March of 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a virus first noticed in China in the latter months of 2019, swept the United States, forcing Americans into social distancing practices in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. The pandemic suffocated the way of living we knew to be normal before, preventing people around the world from seeing their loved ones and killing hundreds of thousands of citizens around the world.
Resilience is the word that comes to mind when I think about a preteen experiencing the challenges we face today. The boys were very vocal about their feelings with all the tragic events whereas the girls were more reserved. All things known to be a normal life, like attending school, have been temporarily put on hold. The students and I video conference as a class often, just to check in on each other. After two years in classrooms together this is our new normal, in the midst of loneliness and uncertainty. We will do our best to finish this school year out, publish this book with our most raw and true expressions of ourselves, and, most importantly, get through all of this together.
It is vital to me to step in the gap for the needs of all students that want to continuously better themselves and this great group of scholars has risen to the occasion. Maya Angelou said it best, “I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.” Because I know we count on each other I will always do my part.
You can buy the book for $15 each! Your purchase will support all of 826DC’s free youth writing programs, including the Young Authors’ Book Project.