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Welcome to the Boggs School

PHOTO COURTESY LEAH DUNCAN

PHOTO COURTESY LEAH DUNCAN

By Halima Cassells
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Stepping in, larger-than-life portraits of young faces greet me — red, orange, blue, green — smiling as if they have a secret that they are ready to share. Looking up, I  see  whimsical cloud kites adorning  the ceiling.

Welcome to the James and Grace Lee Boggs School!

My first impression as a prospective parent was that this school is pretty cool. I had no idea the amount of awesomeness in store for our family this past school year.

Tucked in a neighborhood on Detroit’s east side at 4141 Mitchell, this space is dedicated to growing solutionary leaders.

The first week I asked about homework, my daughter responded, “Boggs school isn’t about homework, it’s about figuring out how we want to treat each other. We’ve been creating our class social contract.”

Inspired by the work of James and Grace Lee Boggs, Principal Julia Putnam decided there should be a school dedicated to teaching the skills of leadership, creative problem-solving, and social responsibility.  One of Grace’s first teenage volunteers at age 16, Putnam and her team worked for five years to bring this vision into fruition.

But how can social justice and responsibility be so much fun?

With its awesome administrative team, Boggs School visited 20 community spaces for field trips last year. At each space, the young people helped, added to, or co-created something while there, experiencing connected learning at its best.

Students visited galleries, gardens, museums and other schools.  At Detroit School of the Arts, students created a collaborative video project that depicts our “alikeness” and features original animated drawings, spoken word and song.

“My favorite field trip was to the Heidelberg project. We got to meet Mr. Guyton, and we got to see his art, and it was cool, because it’s what other people thought was trash,” said third-grader Yusef.

This spring on a stage in the middle of Mitchell Street with an audience of over 150 people, Boggs School hosted an event at the school for family, friends and neighbors to get together and interact authentically.

There were several other celebrations throughout the year: a harvest fest, a “walk-in” movie original, and tumbling, poetry and comedy, as well as a performance by hip hop duo Passalacqua, who instructed the audience to move in slow motion.

When I asked most folks what they like best about the Boggs School, 99 percent simply said “the people.”  Fourth grader Jayla, replied, “I liked the teachers and the activities we did, because we had good times.”

Summer vacation is here, but we are all anticipating stepping back into the Boggs School in the fall.

Halima Cassells is a parent of a student at the Boggs School. She is also the community outreach coordinator for Detroit Black Community Food Security Network Co-op Grocery Store.

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