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Walter White has students thinking about community
Reid Volk
Walter White Elementary School Principal Reid Volk guides students in a Friday schoolwide exercise to develop their concept of community. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Walter White Elementary School conducted a schoolwide exercise on Friday in which students of all grade levels split into groups of four on the playground to discuss the concept of what the word “community” represents and to draw pictures of it.

Ceres Unified School District has been inviting their schools to be a part of a so-called Equity Cohort, said first-year Principal Reid Volk, “to reframe and understand how we view our lens of equity and diversity in our community.”

Walter White formed its own “equity team” and all grade level students have received lessons on “Community.”

“Today is about, ‘What is ‘community’ mean to you?’” Volk explained.

“Especially in the age COVID and coming back from it we haven’t yet to really dip our toes in schoolwide events and so this is one of our first ways to bring everybody together.”

Fourth-grade teachers Heba Morad and Rosa Ruiz headed up the activity.

“What we are trying to build is ‘community’ at all grade levels so that way we are able to show our diversity and inclusivity,” explained Ruiz. “We’re trying to build community, having the older kids take that opportunity to just collaborate with the younger kids, take that ownership of being a good leader. We’re also trying to incorporate the diverse aspect. Tomorrow is ‘El Dia de Los Ninos,’ and ‘Dia Los Libros,’ which is Kids Day and Book Day and so we’re trying to incorporate that into our activity today as well.”

She said each class had its own discussion about what constitutes community.

The puzzle-piece shaped pieces of paper on which the kids drew pictures will be used to create banners to represent the diversity of the students.

Walter White, a Title 1 campus, has an ethnically diverse student and staff population. Ruiz said that the Walter White teaching staff is becoming diverse, which has allowed students to be taught about different cultures.

Morad, who is a Palestinian who moved from Chicago five years ago, recently spoke to her students about Ramadan, an Islamic period of fasting.

Amanda Rodriguez, who has taught at Walter White for nine years and a member of the Cohort, said the concept of community took a hit with COVID restrictions isolating individuals.

At the end of the activity, all 482 students had a chance to pick out and take home a book.

Volk said his school attendance is growing as students return to the classroom.

 from the district’s distance learning. He said enrollment in August was around 400 and is now around 482.

WW art students
Students at Walter White Elementary School got out in the open air on Friday and drew pictures of what they think represents community. - photo by Jeff Benziger