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Hillside Elementary School Hosts Racial Equity Day

two book covers: "Flying High" and "Justice Rising"Hillside Elementary School celebrated Racial Equity Day on May 12 with two virtual visits from award-winning authors Michelle Meadows and Katheryn Russell-Brown.

The theme of the day: Everyone can do something to make things better in our world.

Kindergarten and first grade heard from Meadows, who shared her lyrical picture book biography Flying High, the story of gymnastics superstar and Olympic champion Simone Biles.

As a child, before she was a record-breaking gymnast, Biles spent time in foster care. Through Flying High, students learned about the uncertainty of her first childhood home and watched as she and her three siblings were later placed in a foster home, were separated, and eventually adopted by their biological grandparents.

Meadows pointed out Biles's setbacks and triumphs to the students. They hung on to her every word as she read each stanza, illustrating how Biles overcame her challenges and followed her dreams with courage and grace.

"Disappointments, obstacles, and setbacks are part of life. There will be falls. The question is: do we get back up and try again?" Meadows said in a separate interview with Picture Book Buzz. "Simone’s story is one of resilience."

The session wrapped up with Meadows sharing helpful tips for becoming an author.

Later that morning, students in grades two through four received a visit from Katheryn Russel-Brown, who shared Justice Rising: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as her writing process for the book. The book begins with Ella Baker (1903–1986), “revered as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” and features the work of activists including Coretta Scott King (1927–2006), Rosa Parks (1913–2005), and Bernice Johnson Reagon (born 1942).

The subjects of Justice Rising are organized alphabetically by last name, and each entry lists their place of birth and life span, indicating that some heroes are still among us, continuing the fight for racial equality.

At the end of each virtual session, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Dr. Jenice Mateo-Toledo gave students a call to action.

"What can you do to take care of others and yourself?" she asked.

A bulletin board in the library served as a space for students to share their ideas.

Both conversations functioned as lessons for the district's youngest learners, inspiring them to do better for themselves and others.