2010-09-02 / News

Island students to create ‘code’ for living

By Dara Chadwick

If someone asked you to identify your own personal code for how you want to live your life, could you do it?

That’s exactly what students in grades five through eight will be doing this year at the Lawn Avenue School. Today – the first day of school in Jamestown – marks the beginning of a year-long project called “One Book, Two Schools.”

The premise is simple: Just before the summer break, all students in grades 5 through 8 received a copy of the book “The Code: The 5 Secrets of Teen Success” by Mawi Asgedom. Students – and parents – were asked to read the book over the summer and will spend the remainder of this school year discussing the book, developing their own “code” and re-affirming how they want to live their middle-school lives.

Why this book?

“It’s empowering to students,” said Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathleen Almanzor. “It’s about their personal beliefs. There are many things we can’t control, but they do have control over their beliefs. It’s a good life message for all of us.”

“The Code” was written by Mawi Asgedom, an Ethiopian refugee who eventually moved to Illinois with his family, earned a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University and became an author and speaker. Among other media appearances, Asgedom has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The book includes chapters such as “Win the Inner Battle,” “Win Every Day,” “Give First, Receive Second,” “Never Lose Hope” and “Take Smart Risks.” It seeks to teach kids to stay true to who they are, to be persistent and to understand that they always have a choice in how they respond to life circumstances.

“It’s really about looking to yourself,” Almanzor said. “It’s not looking at everything around you. It’s about how you can face situations and take advantage of situations.”

But “The Code” is also about considering your place in the larger world.

To facilitate that lesson, last spring, Almanzor applied for a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation’s Newport County Fund. In June, she received word that the school had won $6,000 to establish a collaborative reading and learning partnership with Thompson Middle School in Newport called “One Book, Two Schools.”

The goal of the collaboration, Almanzor said, is to encourage community building and common language. Jamestown students will discuss the book throughout the year in their advisory meetings, and Almanzor foresees opportunities for blogging between the two schools.

“We’ll be backing it up with advisories during the year,” she said. “We’ll be building our own advisory around the book, which is really tied into what middle school is all about.”

Thanks to the grant, students at both Lawn and Thompson will come together on Sept. 15 to hear from Asgedom himself when the author presents two programs – one geared for fifth- and sixth-grade

students and the other for seventhand

eighth-grade students – to help kick off the partnership between the schools.

“It’s a great way to have a common language throughout the schools,” Almanzor said. “It’s a reference point, and it really promotes positive thinking.”

Through the partnership, students will learn about “tolerance, respect and the value of personal action in initiating community change,” according to the R.I. Foundation.

Middle-school students are typically caught up in their outward appearance and social pressures, Almanzor said.

“They worry so much,” she said. “They’re discovering who they are and they have many choices to make. This book is about re-affirming their own belief system.”

To learn more about “The Code” or Mawi Asgedom, visit www. mawispeaks.com.

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