The “Kings Corner” Reading Garden at the Rosa Parks School is an educational oasis for its students. As you pass through the school’s foyer and into the garden, you get an immediate sense of calm and joy. The ground, dotted with bright yellow and purple flowers, blends in with the Safari-inspired mural across the back wall. An exotic bird peeks out from behind a bush, while an elephant peers curiously out over the flowers. In the corner of the patio are situated comfortable chairs where students can curl up with a book and take a journey into their imagination.
On Friday, September 27, 2013, Rosa Parks PS 254 in Queens, New York hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new Reading Garden, named the King’s Corner in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Last year, the Rosa Parks School was awarded a grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education fund to create a Reading Garden on their back patio. Rosa Parks’ art teacher, Mr. Popovic, worked with students to study Henri Rousseau and create their own animal-filled mural. Another group of students studied plant life in the Northeast and selected an array of fauna for the garden. Finally, the school’s staff brought in some comfortable chairs and a small table to set up a reading nook in their garden. The final product is a safe haven in which students can read and relax.
In addition to the garden dedication, the Rosa Parks School is celebrating its 10th year of operation. For the past decade, Principal Naomi Drouillard has made Rosa Parks PS 254 an educational oasis. PS 254, which serves just under 650 students, of which 80% are eligible for free or reduced lunch, has been named a Title I School of Distinction and a national Blue Ribbon School. The Ribbon-Cutting ceremony showcased some of the school’s accomplishments.
After a warm-hearted welcome and thank you from Drouillard, she turned the floor over to about 100 of her students, representing a cross-section of the 1st through 5th grade classes. Each class recited from memory a portion of King’s “Dream” speech. It was powerful to hear such an enthusiastic and racially diverse group of young students remind us of King’s dream that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Later in the program, the school’s Glee Club performed a medley of songs. They began with an instrumental version of “Kumbaya.” Next, the whole club sang the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “America, the Beautiful” was performed with a solo from a very brave 1st grader! The Glee Club wrapped up their performance with a tribute to their namesake Rosa Parks, “Something Inside So Strong.”
In addition to the student performances, several elected officials came by to celebrate with the Rosa Parks community. In particular, Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller greeted the audience and congratulated PS 254 on their new Reading Garden and on a decade of great schooling. Finally, Dr. Alfonso Wyatt gave a keynote speech, in which he assured the students, “You have a right to dream, you have a right to your dream, and no one can ever take that away.”