On Jan. 14, the Upper Moreland Middle School celebrated its Acceptance Day 2011.
According to the district's information manger, Nora Rosenbaum, Acceptance Day was started in 1986, the same year that MLK Day was declared a federal holiday.
She said that the day was a fun way to show the students appreciation for civil rights and diversity.
At the Middle School, the entire day was dedicated to immersing the students with lessons that kept with the spirit of MLK Day, and included an international food display, civics lessons with magistrate judge Paul Leo and state representative Tom Murt, as well as a talk with a UM high school student, who grew up in New Guinea.
Photo highlights from the following gallery include speakers and events from throughout the day:
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award
During the Middle School Assembly, a student and a community member were honored with the annual Upper Moreland Middle School Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.
This year's community member to receive the award was Glenn Brown.
He has been recognized for his community involvement, highlighting his years of volunteerism with the school district. Brown has participated with parent groups, was a member of the school board from 2001-05 and is currently the president of the Upper Moreland Educational Foundation.
"I've been involved with the school for years," Brown said. "It's quite an honor."
Alexis Humbrecht, an eighth grade student, was the student recipient of the humanitarian award.
Humbrecht was volunteering, taking photos for a teacher's arts and crafts project, when she was suddenly called down to the principal's office that day.
"I was kind of freaking out," Humbrecht said. "I have never been called down to the office before."
Humbrecht is involved with many volunteer opportunities and clubs at the Middle School, including the Eco-Club and Student Council. She helped start and became co-president of the Bottle-Caps program, along with her friend and co-president Erica Grivjack.
In this program, she collects bottle caps for recycling with Whole Foods Market's recycling program.
"I've got a garage-full of bags of bottle caps," she said with a big grin. "It doesn't make my dad very happy, but, it's worth it."
Humbrecht said that it feels good to receive the award, and hopes to continue the bottle cap program when she enters high school next year.
- Buckley Kids: Certified Therapy Dogs
Two furry Shetland sheepdogs and a tail-wagging golden retriever instantly brought smiles to students and visitors when the dogs and their owners visited for Acceptance Day.
The sheepdogs, whose names are Diamond and Silver, and Dakota, the golden retriever, are certified therapy dogs. The sheepdogs owner, Daniel Buckley, brings his dogs every Wednesday afternoon to Abington Memorial Hospital, as well as Abington Memorial Hospice and several nursing homes.
"I've been doing it for ten years now," Buckley said of bringing his certified therapy dogs to places where people could use a smile. "It's nice to give something back to the community."
He was invited to talk about his therapy dog experiences to the students on Acceptance Day by sixth-grade teacher Cheryl Metzel, Dakota's owner. She has several certified therapy dogs, and has trained many therapy dogs, including Buckley's own.
Buckley said that the children always provide a warm reception to his presentations.
"They enjoy it," he said. "In fact, one of the children's mother called me and wants to get her dogs certified."
- East West Karate Family Martial Arts and Fitness demonstration
Seneis Joe Weber, Josh Graff and Mary Mele came to Acceptance Day to help students learn self-discipline and positive energy when interacting with fellow classmates.
"Martial Arts training is not to misuse what I learn in class," Weber said to a gymnasium filled with excited Middle School students.
The three martial arts instructors hail from East West Karate Family Martial Arts and Fitness, located in Warminster and Richboro.
The demonstration started off with cardio-vascular and stretching exercises, including jumping jacks and running-in-place.
- Autism Awareness
Community member Eileen Quinn taught students about the Autism Spectrum on Acceptance Day, and the different ways someone within the spectrum may understand certain concepts.
Quinn, assistant executive director of Quinn Developmental Services, explained how someone with Autism may not understand the meaning behind certain idoms.
"That shirt is cool," she told a sixth-grade class as an example. "But, someone with Asperger's [syndrome] thinks your shirt is cold."
She said that it is important for students not within the spectrum to understand that students with Autism look at things at a literal level, while some students may be completely non-verbal.
- A Civic Lesson from civic leaders
Judge Paul Leo, magistrate judge for district 38-1-14, and state representative Tom Murt (R-152), gave Middle School students a first-hand lesson in government and civic duty.
Both Leo and Murt have participated with Acceptance Day events for the last several years.
"I talk to them about the judicial system, how it affects all of us," Leo said. "They ask really intelligent questions."
Leo said that he is pleased with the questions generated from his talks. He explains the different kinds of cases that come before him.
In his talks he warns students from becoming involved with criminal activities, and asks them to listen to their conscious before committing actions they may later regret.
"I say to them, that little voice in your head, listen to it," Leo said.
Murt, who has a strong connection to the Upper Moreland School district (he served as its director and currently volunteers on the board of directors for the Upper Moreland Education Foundation), spoke to students about school violence and bullies.
"It's an issue that's on the front burner" Murt said. "They're very attentive."
Murt, who is a teacher by profession, said that he looks forward to speaking with the students at every Acceptance Day.
"It's good to be in the classroom," Murt said. "Our children are our precious resources."
- John and Linda Justice
John and Linda Justice, a married couple, who are both legally blind, have participated in Acceptance Day since 1987.
"We come to show these young folks how to be able to survive in the sighted world," John said.
The couple bring their seeing-eye dogs, Zachary and Jake, to greet the students. They also bring along their laptop, which is fitted with a speaker and special software that enables them to hear the words written on the screen.
"We usually find someone who is very interested," John said. "That's why we keep coming back, because our message gets across."
- Home is where the Heart is: Menvekah Daramay
Menvekah Daramay was in the fourth grade when he left his homeland of New Guinea to attend school in Upper Moreland.
Now a highly involved high school senior, Daramay, spoke of his culture-shock transition (he spoke little English upon his arrival to the U.S.), and what life was like as a child around the same age as the Middle School students.
Wearing traditional New Guinea dress, he used a Power-Point presentation, highlighting different aspects of life in the African nation.
Daramay spoke about the two different schools he had to attend: an English school and a religious school, where lessons were taught in Arabic.
He also spoke about the recreational activities offered during his childhood.
"We didn't have video-games or anything like that, you had to go outside to do anything fun," Daramay said, providing examples like jump rope or soccer.
"And, we didn't call it soccer," he continued with a smile. "We called it football, like everybody else in the world."
For more information, visit the Upper Moreland School District website.