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2-25-21 — Bentwood Celebrates Black History Month

Feb. 25, 2021 ~ In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools looked to create a sense of normalcy by safely reintroducing pre-pandemic activities. Bentwood Elementary created action teams to engage staff and students in their school community. One team was tasked with creating safe school assemblies and celebrations.

“As a Leader in Me School, we believe all staff and students are leaders. Our goal has been to take the ceiling off for our staff members to access and celebrate their genius,” Bentwood Principal Sharon Ingebrand said. Autism paraeducator Quila Haynes was tapped to serve on the school assembly team, and with energy and passion, Haynes quickly brought a new idea to the table.

“During one of our meetings, we discussed having a serious moment at an assembly,” Haynes said. “I asked if we could have moments in Black history. Being a woman of color is very important to me and I just ran with it.”

Haynes and autism teacher Courtney Kraus worked together and created a mural of the Black History Periodic Table. Kraus saw a photo of something similar on social media and took the idea to Haynes.

“Quila was so excited and emotionally touched, her enthusiasm was very contagious,” Ingebrand said. Students and staff quickly loved the display and became excited to engage and learn.

“It’s really cool that students who had no idea who any of the people were, are now interested in learning more,” Haynes said. “I hope this is something that can continue in our school and in our district for years to come.”

“The biggest part of this experience for me has been seeing the impact this has had on our team. We have several paras of other ethnicities and races and the diversity is beautiful,” said Kraus. “To watch them build and interact with this display has been such a source of joy in a very difficult time.”

“I’m very pleased and overjoyed,” said Haynes. “When Courtney showed me the photo and being able to incorporate myself into the periodic table has been such a blessing.

“My hope is for people to see how important it is to celebrate these heroes and have a better understanding of Black culture,” said Haynes. “Representation is very important and I feel like this table represents students we have in this building. This project represents history and life. Anything is possible and the table represents never giving up and being proud of who you are. Don’t be discouraged because of the color of your skin as all things are possible.”