ASSEMBLIES & WORKSHOPS
By Dr. Rebecca Malmo, Executive Director of Student and Family Support Services
THANKS TO MUSD School Board Trustee support during a time of social isolation and uncertainty for many students, Madera Unified School District was fortunate to partner with America’s Got Talent Season 15 winner Brandon Leake for a variety of virtual events, including several motivational assemblies, poetry workshops, and an Open Mic Poetry Slam.
MUSD kicked off the Brandon Leake partnership with a press conference at Torres High School on November 18, 2021, which resulted in our own George Garnica, Communications Analyst, winning the California School Public Relations Association award for Media Relations for the MUSD Brandon Leake announcement. The press conference was featured in every single media outlet.
As a Stockton California native, and former educator, in addition to being an award winning professional poet, Mr. Leake is uniquely qualified to motivate and inspire our students. His engaging combination of compassion and his ability to connect with students, even in a virtual environment, helped many students to feel seen, heard, valued and supported during the virtual events, spanning December 2021 and February 2021.
The assemblies were provided by pyramid to elementary students in grades 4-6, 7-8 students at our country schools and our comprehensive middle schools, and high school students at comprehensive and alternative education sites over three asynchronous Wednesdays in December. Mr. Leake addressed goal setting and the importance of staying focused and avoiding distractions to be successful. He also shared some of his performance poetry at each assembly, always grade level appropriate and inspiring. He also took questions from students in the virtual format and responded to many. The students’ questions were often thought provoking and demonstrated their need to connect and express themselves.
The Poetry Workshops were also divided by grade level over the course of four asynchronous Wednesdays in February and culminated in our district Black History Celebration event. Elementary students in grades 4-6 were able to join Mr. Leake virtually on February 3 for a poetry lesson unlike any other. Mr. Leake’s engaging presentation style mixed the introduction of poetry terminology, music and incorporation of a variety of poetic devices to demonstrate how students can write their own poetry. He also addressed the challenges of learning remotely and provided a venue for students to express how they felt about the many months of distance learning. It was interesting to learn that most students “felt okay” about learning from home; only a small number expressed that they really wanted or needed to be back in school.
The middle school students joined Mr. Leake on February 10 and also experienced an age appropriate poetry lesson focused on discovering words in everyday situations that sparked their interest and thus their poetic expression. The sessions were very interactive and the students were challenged to find a variety of rhyming words for their own original work.
The high school students and their teachers joined Mr. Leake February 17. Our high school Activity Directors suggested that the teachers would benefit from an opportunity to understand what Mr. Leake had to offer their students so they could understand why it was important that students attend the workshops. The general high school student body followed at 11:00 and the Black Student Union members had their own dedicated, more focused session at 1:00.
Mr. Leake provided two additional performances February 24. First was the Finale at the African American Excellence in Education Workshop organized and produced by the Department of School Culture and Climate, in collaboration with Dr. Marcheta Williams, and also featuring some of the artistic expressions of our standout African American students. Mr. Leake’s final performance was an Open Mic Poetry Slam later that day.
The next step in our partnership with Mr. Leake is to determine how to extend it into the 2021-2022 school year and beyond. His motivating messages and inspiration will continue to be relevant and engaging even as we return to in-person learning full time. Mr. Leake has also written a new book of poetry which we hope to make available in our libraries for students to read.
We want to again thank our Board of Trustees for providing such a unique and high quality experience for our students, albeit in a virtual environment. Mr. Leake has been an inspiration to us all.
Martin Luther King
By Johanna Cuevas-Bravo
Mrs. Atherton’s 6th Grade Class
Change the law that’s what he broke
He even taught
He changed the world
Freed the slaves
Everyone was so happy they twirled
He cheerfully waves
He was a leader
He had so much courage
He was a speaker
He saved the whole village
My Favorite Food
By Ruben Angel Ochoa
Mr. Marino’s 6th Grade Class
Dear pizza when I saw you I felt crazy
You made me lazy
The pizza was so cheesy
I felt like it was breezy
I like it with extra sauce
Because I will toss it up like a boss
When I’m tapping
I like to be rapping
I like the way it’s fresh out the oven
When I comes out I feel like a dozen
When I smell the pizza it triggers my brain
It makes my brain wanna feel insane
When I took a bite
All of a sudden my pants felt so tight
My pants were tight but it was delicious
All the people looked vicious
I ate all of it but my tummy was rumbly
It didn’t feel lovely it felt crumbly
I went restroom
After I was done it was a messy room