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Higginson-Lewis School celebrates 100th Anniversary

Jacquinn Williams
Higginson-Lewis School celebrates 100th Anniversary
Students from Higginson-Lewis School play the drums at the 100th Anniversary “We Dare to Dream of Excellence” party on Dec. 9. (Photo: Jacquinn Williams)

Author: Jacquinn WilliamsStudents from Higginson-Lewis School play the drums at the 100th Anniversary “We Dare to Dream of Excellence” party on Dec. 9.

The Higginson-Lewis K-8 School in Roxbury was all abuzz recently as students and faculty prepared for their 100th Anniversary “We Dare to Dream of Excellence” party.

A night of music by the Boston Symphony Orchestra along with performances by students, the event earlier this month was a mere glimpse of the school’s renewed commitment to the arts.

The school is working to incorporate arts into the curriculum as a result of a recent Boston Public School’s Full Service Community School Grant. The five-year grant will support community partnerships that align with the school’s instructional priorities, according to Lena Reddick, director of Community and Partnerships.

“The overall goal is to decrease the achievement gap,” Reddick explained. “We do that by reaching out and supporting students and families. We go into the community and bring in services for the families. For example, New England Eye Ophthalmology examines all of our children. If they need it, they can get two pairs of free glasses.”

Reddick has only been at the Higginson-Lewis school for one year, but she, along with dedicated teachers and Principal Joy Oliver, have taken major steps in the right direction. She was born in Boston and comes from a long line of abolitionists.

“I have a personal stake in this,” she said. “I grew up here and moved away to New York. Now, I’m back and making a difference in our community.”

Shiny new Apple computers are available for the students to use. They were donated by the Timothy Smith foundation. The school is also focused on technology in the classroom, as evidenced by the use of iTalk for its autistic students — and iPads and smart boards in the computer lab.

Teacher Ed Urban is also excited by all the changes taking place.

“Nine years ago when I started, there weren’t even overhead projectors,” Urban said. “Now, the technology we have allows teachers to be more creative.”

The word “Inspire” is spelled out in big wood letters in the main office.  Trophies of all kinds line the shelves and the walls throughout the school have messages of hope and encouragement from famous African Americans.

Students scurry about in the hallways with clipboards, checking off tasks and asking Reddick for direction. In a basement classroom, accomplished musician and arts teacher Jason Wise, is waiting for his class to come rushing through the doors.

“My eighth grade class is working on a piece based on the movie ‘War Dance,’ ” Wise said. “It’s about Ugandan children displaced by the war. These kids had everything taken away from them. But there’s a musical competition happening there that the kids want to be a part of. Art sustains these kids. I’m trying to show the children in my class how art might save their lives.”

Going to school at Higginson affords students myriad opportunities. Drumming lessons are offered a couple of times per week in certain classes. In addition, the school has a partnership with NASA for Astrology and other sciences.

“We’re excited about being able to open the door to more opportunities for students,” Oliver said. “We’re always looking for creative teachers who are eager to make things happen. I want the children to grow and to take advantage of the resources available.”

Despite its various offerings, the Higginson-Lewis school is still battling its urban reputation.

“You know, there’s lots of talk about our school not being picked [in the self-selection process],” Reddick said. “But, I think it depends on who you ask. Our school is over capacity.”

“We (ethnic minorities) tend to pick schools differently than other communities,” Reddick explained. “We don’t choose schools by scores alone. We want to know if a school can take care of our children. Are we performing above proficiency levels? Yes. Do we still have work to do? Yes.”