Third grade students from the International Charter School (ICS) in Pawtucket told legislators that they needed to help the homeless this legislative session. 10 students, on behalf of their class of 39, spoke while their peers, teachers, advocates, and legislators watched.
The ICS, which strives to integrate the language and cultures of the communities it serves by teaching all student in two languages (either in Portuguese and English or Spanish and English), wanted its students to deal with serious issues as a community; voicing disagreements respectfully, and then coming to agreement on what action to take. As part of their 3rd grade social studies class, a simulated community eventually contained a tent city of homeless people, and the students decided they wanted to do something about that.
So it was that after a month of research, they found themselves in the Governor’s State Room, explaining to Representatives and Senators why ending homelessness was important, and why it was vital that they do so. Recalling an earlier Wizard of Oz-themed event, the children dressed as munchkins and requested that that Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow attend as well (the four all attended).
Jazzlynn Sanchez told the assembled legislators, “What we want to happen is to not have as many homeless people. My message is that everyone deserves a home, even though they don’t have enough money. Our goal is to try and lower rents and pass a bill that will allow more people to afford homes. If you can, please try to help the homeless. It would really be a pleasure if you could.”
The children specifically asked that legislators adopt bills H5554 and S494 as part of their budget for the coming fiscal year. Then they thanked everyone who turned out and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
Afterwards, the students toured the State House with Rep. Lisa Tomasso (D – Coventry, W. Greenwich).