Principal George Guy of A. Russell Knight Elementary School in Cherry Hill strives to keep the goals of Dr. Martin Luther King alive and in action.
A 2013 Camden County Freedom Medal recipient, Guy has been linking King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to a unity and friendship theme in the school this year.
For the past five years, students have been decorating placemats for those in need in Camden’s Cathedral Kitchen. In December, almost 400 placemats were created, Guy said, and they were set to recently be delivered.
“They draw symbols, metaphors, (and) some will draw Dr. King,” he said.
Teachers make sure their students understand the value of the project, talking about Cathedral Kitchen and why unity is important.
“They’re given opportunities to reflect on that,” he said.
Student council then evaluates the placemats from each grade level from kindergarten to fifth-grade. The students who reach the theme closest or are particularly innovative are recognized.
The Cathedral Kitchen benefit is the school’s signature project, but there are at least seven other service projects that occur now.
And parents and community members have shown their support, Guy said.
“Everybody is excited about it because service learning is difficult, especially at the early elementary age,” he said.
Guy was recently recognized for his focus on service projects at a Board of Education meeting.
His focal point, he said, is making sure the projects that the school brings to its students help them to understand that their service is valuable, “and that they need to reach outside of themselves.”
The school partners with the Martin Luther King Day of Service through Global Citizen in Philadelphia, he said, which helps to exemplify the themes of King.
The Ronald McDonald House in Camden has also reaped the benefits of Knight School’s projects, which Guy emphasizes are student-driven.
“We do collections of (soda) tabs for the Ronald McDonald House,” said Guy.
“They collected a good amount,” he added, in the December to January drive.
As February is Black History Month, there are several events scheduled in the school.
On Feb. 4, parents are to read African American literature to students during an African American read in.
On Feb. 22, the school is to take a tour of African American figures.
“That will be the culminating activity for Black History Month,” Guy said.
A friendship and unity themed mosaic will be hung in the school’s all purpose room to tie in all that has been learned, he said.
Outside the school
Guy sits on the New Jersey State Martin Luther King Commission on the school and state level.
As a commissioner, he is responsible for bringing King into his community.
In the past, they have given scholarships in the name of King for youth, he said.
In March, he’ll attend a youth conference for schools, including Camden, Irvington, Jersey City and Newark, to focus on workforce readiness.
While a resident of Lindenwold, Cherry Hill is special to Guy.
“It’s my second home,” he said.