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Rays Of Hope

If there is one thing we are certain of here at Parker, it’s that we grow great kids. Character education has always shared the stage with challenging academic work at Parker for one simple reason — it produces intellectually vibrant students. Here at Parker, we are not only focused on WHAT kids will be when they grow up, but HOW they will be.

The initial inspiration for this week’s Snapshot came by way of a simple email from Parker 8th grader, Helen Wunderlich, asking for her buddy’s contact information. I was immediately struck by the many levels of integrity inherent in this simple request. First and foremost, Helen had the courage and motivation to reach out independently to an adult with her request. She felt called towards purposeful action, seeking to maintain and cultivate a mentorship relationship with a younger Parker student. Helen did not do this because it was assigned (it wasn’t), and she was not looking for attention. She did it simply because she wanted to…because it is implicit in her character to recognize that this was the right thing to do.
Helen’s note got me thinking, and I soon realized — she is not unique to Parker. She IS Parker. A quick email to parents confirmed my suspicion: Parker kids everywhere have been spending their quarantine engaged in thoughtful, purposeful activities that demonstrate their competence, confidence, and caring for others. Here are just a few examples of the amazing displays of character our Parker students are showing during this quarantine.

“When Parker went online, I missed seeing my buddy Russell. Over the course of Buddies, Russell and I had become close friends. We played make-believe games, made twin apple trees out of construction paper, and had lunch together a couple of times, and I missed that. Last week I got in touch with his mom with Andrea’s help and I had a Zoom meeting with him. We were both really happy to see and talk to each other again. I got to meet Russell’s cat, Gizmo, and Russell met my pet mice. We chatted and Russell read me a story from The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. Now we have a plan to Zoom every Wednesday. I am very happy, because having buddies again and talking with Russell makes everything a little easier.” ~Helen (8th grade)  “It’s really important to stay connected to people who make you feel happy and good right now because it helps us stay healthy and deal with the hard things. It’s good that Helen knows about things like school and video games and I can just talk to her about things I am thinking. She is like part of my chosen family because sometimes my Parker friends are just like that.” ~Russell (3rd grade)
Parker students Meryl, Emmett, and George Hartman have donned their reporting caps to help their dad Steve Hartman produce Kindness 101 for the CBS Evening News. Their weekly segments are geared towards kids “of all ages” (including adults!) and aim to spread Kindness by educating kids on topics such as empathy, character, friendship, and altruism. Steve adds, “If a kid grows up with kindness and fairness and honesty, they’ll find good work. They’ll find love. They’ll find friendships. Our classes have millions of views around the world, and I’m told I have very little to do with that success. Meryl and Emmett have stolen the show (and George helps behind the scenes). The kids add humor and insight to every lesson. And they’re excellent teachers. Obviously, they’ve had great role models at Parker:)” ~Steve Hartman (Meryl, 1st grade; Emmett, 4th grade; George, 6th grade)

Inspired by Steve’s Kindness 101 class, 3rd grader Hazel was moved to write notes of gratitude to her mail carrier and local fire department. Her thoughtful and articulate note says it all…
“Julian has just floored me with his resilience and willingness to roll with things since this began. I have a particular moment I’d like to share. After learning about Earth Day, he immediately proposed that we go for a “grabber-reacher walk” to pick up litter in our neighborhood. We geared up and went right out. We managed to pick up a LOT of trash, and he took it on as our responsibility to keep the earth healthy. He really led us through this whole exercise, and it made us just so proud.” ~Paul Charbel (Julian, PreK 4)

“Shortly after everyone received the stay at home orders, Audrey decided to paint rainbows to distribute to our neighbors in Kinderhook. The first day she made about 10, which we walked around the neighborhood and dropped off on people’s front porches with a note that said, “I hope this brings you some cheer! From Audrey Gresens.” Since that first delivery, we’ve received numerous messages from other neighbors requesting rainbows. In total, Audrey has probably painted at least 20 rainbows that are now perched happily in windows all over our neighborhood. It’s so fun to take our daily walks and see the trademark Audrey Gresens rainbow in so many windows!” ~Jennifer Gresens (Audrey, 6th grade)
“Mia has cooked a chicken and baked a cake from scratch. Also, because Lindsey (her nanny) missed going to the zoo, Mia made one for her all by herself.” ~Vera Cohen (Mia, PreK 4)

“Reid was inspired to express his gratitude for the people working on the frontlines, his teachers, and all the essential workers who are sacrificing so much right now to keep us all safe. He and his sister Bailey spent the morning last week drawing this rainbow at the bottom of our driveway to say thank you to our local heroes. It is a small and simple gesture but encapsulates an enormous degree of hope and appreciation.” ~Janel Leone (Reid, 4th grade)