Howard University students spring into action at Sumner | Education


A dedicated group of Howard University students spend spring break helping a school district away from the Washington, DC campus.

The students are part of Howard’s Alternative Spring Break program, which sends hundreds of students across the country and abroad during spring break. A team of 12 people is assigned to Sumner High School until Friday, March 11.

“We go with Sumner students wherever the school day takes them,” said Sydelle Davis, a Howard graduate chemical engineering student.

“The success of HU Alternative Spring Break in St. Louis lies in our ability to connect one-on-one [with] young people and build relationships that will lead to honest and open discussions. Given their own unique experiences at Howard University, our students are prepared to respond to a wide range of issues from pandemic pressures to social justice initiatives.

Each Howard student was paired with a small group of Sumner freshmen, sophomores, or juniors.

Sumner principal Sean Nichols said the school’s student government council advocated for the program to be incorporated into the historic high school in The Ville neighborhood. Opened in 1875, it was the first high school for African Americans west of the Mississippi, according to a St. Louis Historic Structures website.

“Sumner is thrilled and ready to welcome our guests to our school, to our lunch tables and to our school family,” he said. “We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to the exchange of information as both groups of students share school projects and experiences. This is an amazing opportunity to discuss higher education and plans for the future.

Sumner recently created his Advocacy, Arts and Action platform, and Nichols said Howard students are part of lively discussions with his students.

“Because they are close in age, Howard students will almost certainly inspire and energize our students; many of whom continue to be challenged by the effects of the pandemic on educational programs and traditions,” Nichols said.

Howard students are not limited to serving only Sumner.

In the afternoons, some work with children at the Annie Malone Children’s Home, which is adjacent to Sumner.

Howard students also work with other agencies and schools in the St. Louis metro area and discuss topics such as gun violence, community outreach, youth empowerment, and social justice.

They also visited the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, a college-preparatory school focusing on STEM (science technology, engineering, and math) and helping clean up and replant the school’s community garden.

“We believe in the importance of our girls seeing adults who look like them feeding themselves healthy foods,” said Hawthorn Project Coordinator Alisa Bennett-Hart.

The theme of this year’s ASB program is “The Return”. In 2020, all travel and programs have been suspended due to risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“In 2021, students established a virtual civic engagement plan, a first in the program’s nearly three-decade history,” said Bernard L. Richardson, Howard University’s chief executive for religious and religious affairs. ASB supervisor.

“ASB is a learning laboratory that challenges students’ growth as leaders and demands that they recommit to finding their purpose in service to others,” he said. “I often share that our students were destined for a time like this. I am constantly inspired by their perseverance.

Established in 1994, Howard’s ASB program was instrumental in naming HBCU to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction in 2014. This honor is the highest honor federal level that an institution may receive for service learning and civic engagement.

According to Richardson, the program “grew momentum” following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It continued to grow when students traveled to Haiti in 2010 to help earthquake victims. They spent spring break working with orphans and helping to rebuild a school in Haiti, thus launching ASB’s international action.

For more information about Alternative Spring Break and how to support the program, visit


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