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New York City Department of Education and the 100 Days to Freedom Service-Learning Project

(L-R) Carol Harrison, Dolores Esposito, Kenneth Morris, Dr. Ezra Matthias, Norma Abbene, Robert Benz.

On November 14, 2012, the students of IS 229 in the Bronx officially kicked off the school’s participation in the 100 Days to Freedom (in PDF) Service-Learning project.  They were joined by Norma Abbene, Deputy Counsel to Mayor Bloomberg; Kenneth Morris and Robert Benz, Co-founders of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (FDFF); and Dr. Ezra Matthias, Principal of IS 229.  Also present were District 9 Superintendent Dolores Esposito, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development Anthony Orzo and UFT District 9 Representative, Carol Harrison.  

The Service-Learning Project gets its name from the 100 days between September 22, 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, and January 1, 1863 when he signed it.  For the 100 Days to Freedom project, schools from across the country came together to draft a New Proclamation of Freedom.  The New Proclamation petitions the U.S. Department of Education to help facilitate a National Human Trafficking Education Program.  IS 229 is the only representative chosen from New York to participate in 100 Days to Freedom and is the only non-high school in the project.    

Selected artwork from IS 229's slavery and abolition museum.

The kick off featured a remarkable student-led presentation on the history of American slavery and abolition in the United States.  Using the FDFF curriculum, students learned about the life of Frederick Douglass, as well as what it means to be a slave and what it means to be free.  The students gave candid and impassioned accounts of how participating in the 100 Days project affected them both academically and personally.  All enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to be modern-day abolitionists.  Their excitement to learn how to help, and their empathy for those who are victims of trafficking was inspiring.  It was amazing to watch the young people of IS 229, literally wide-eyed, as they saw themselves transition from students of history into history making abolitionists.

Students Adrianna Rodriquez and D’amini Graham give a tour of IS 229's slavery and abolition museum to Deputy Counsel Norma Abbene.
In the weeks leading up to the kickoff, the students partnered with the school’s art department to transform an entire corridor of the school into an interactive slavery and abolition museum.  The students tireless efforts, even while losing a week of work to Super Storm Sandy, paid off.  They created an experience that took visitors back in time, and provided virtual front-row seats to one of the most important struggles in our nation’s history.  Featuring compelling works of art, detailed research and a high level of creativity, the museum reflected the effort the students put into the project and the understanding that they gained from it. They gave personal accounts of what the project meant to them, surrounded by life-sized renderings of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists.     

The next phase of the 100 days project is raising awareness around the New Proclamation of Freedom, including signing it on change.org, which you can do by clicking here