By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Students, teachers, administrators and staff members at the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Asbury Park took to heart the words of Dr. Martin Luther King on his holiday this week to spend the day volunteering for an event that brought young and old together.
In a Breaking Bread celebration pre kindergarten and kindergarten students at the school invited Asbury Park seniors to enjoy the fruits of their labor including homemade bread from preschoolers and butter made by kindergarten students.
Principal Thea M. Jackson-Byers said all those participating were volunteering and not getting paid.
Jackson-Byers opened the ceremony calling it historic and the first time such a gathering was held.
“We are taking a day on, not a day off,” she said speaking of Monday’s holiday.
She invoked Dr. King’s famous words “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
“This is the first time we are doing this but we welcome you,” she said to visiting seniors.
She then introduced a video presentation of Dr. King’s Legacy as told through the eyes of those who knew him, including Congressman John Lewis who marched with King.
Lewis said “This piece of real estate called America, was built and founded on service.”
The woman who was the first student to integrate schools in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges, was also featured in the video. Bridges referenced the famous Norman Rockwell painting “The Problem We All Live With,” showing her being escorted to school with U.S. Marshalls and blood splattered on the wall behind her.
“I knew that the (white) woman helping me (get ready to enter the school) was not like the mob outside the school,” she said.
She said that inspired her to become a civil rights activist in her adult life.
Following the video, Master Teacher Helena Pereira, explained how the children learned how to bake bread and lessons learned from it.
She said students learned about measurements, and the difference between measuring with a teaspoon or a cup. They learned the importance of ingredients and the science of making sure they know the difference between baking soda and baking powder.
“And they learned about making mistakes…if you use sugar instead of salt. Sometimes things don’t come out right, but it’s OK,” she said.
Children went through the entire bread making process, kneading the dough, watching it rise and then baking it.
Pereira also said students learned about team work.
“They learned it took an entire classroom to bake a slice of bread,” she said.
She also said that sharing the bread with seniors from the community taught them something too.
“They learned that baking bread is an act of kindness,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent Sancha Gray attended the event and had high praise for those who participated.
“It’s very exciting and I’m so pleased to be here,” she said. “It was Ms. Byers idea to do this.”
Gray said bringing so many together on a day when school was closed was very “powerful” and highlighted the team work involved.
“It just shows how supportive her staff is, that they are willing to work with her,” she said.
Gray also said she was happy to see such an intergenerational event in the district.
“I’m delighted we can engage our seniors, and our young people…they learn from each other; it’s reciprocal, everyone benefits,” she said.
Reading Specialist Amanda Napolitani, also attended and said she put out books and art materials for the students to engage them in the event.
Students also assembled gift bags for each senior who attended.
Event coordinator Wanda Smith thanked several local businesses which donated food for the event including: DJ’s Delight; Ale House; Frank’s Deli; Panera Bread; Kim Marie’s’ Eat ’n Drink Away; Speakeatery and La Tapatia.