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From South ....

South student smiles against backdrop

to North ...

Ralph Hunter and HSN folks from civil rights display

At High School South (left) Feb. 7, a student smiles in front of the backdrop of one of the New Jersey civil rights display pieces, a then-and-now juxtaposition captured beautifully by South student photographer Olivia Lucas.

At High School North (above) Feb. 8, the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey's Ralph Hunter (front right) joined teacher Brett Smith (back left), Supervisor Matt Malagiere, and student Demetrius Bradford (front left) to honor civil rights history.

to East

High School East students at civil rights display

High School East students took time Feb. 9 to learn about the significance of "the Northside," an Atlantic City neighborhood where black-owned businesses and social clubs thrived as far back as the 1930s. Photo by Allison Goodwin

Students Lead Discussions Thanks to Partnership with Ocean County Historical Society

Feb. 10, 2023-- Debra Levinson of Ocean County Historical Society earned a grant through the New Jersey Historical Society Commission, through which students would lead discussions about New Jersey's civil rights history, with access to visual displays, local historians, and educational resources. The program was piloted last year at High School South, and this year, during Black History Month, the program is district-wide at all three high schools, as well as Central Regional High School in Bayville.

"It's important for students to know that civil rights history wasn't just something that existed in the deep South," said Levinson Wednesday during High School North's portion of the program, "but had an impact right here in New Jersey."

Cohorts of students were selected to spend periods 2 through 7 at High School South (Tuesday), North (Wednesday), and East (Thursday), standing in front of six-foot visual displays-- on loan from statewide museums-- and speaking to their peers about signature moments in the state's civil rights movement. From urban unrest in Newark, to Miss Black America in Atlantic City, to the origins of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Lawnside, NJ, and then some, students helped drive discussions with their classmates and peers.

High School North cohort poses

Debra Levinson, far right, stands with the program's student leaders and High School North staff during Wednesday's civil rights display.

Helping buoy those discussions were Levinson and Ralph Hunter, of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. Hunter, who helped found the museum more than 20 years ago, has been lauded as a superhero for his relentless work exposing the state's history of civil rights to the masses.

For students this week, learning that civil rights hit so close to home made the movement resonate that much more. And that, indeed, has been the mission of the grant program itself.

"This is something that brings everyone together," said Levinson.

Photo by Allison Goodwin

Photo by Allison Goodwin

Slideshow galleries from each school's host day are below. High School South's photos are courtesy of student Olivia Lucas; High School East's photos are courtesy of teacher Allison Goodwin.