Trinidad-born Principal Rhonda Perry of MS 255-Salk School of Science in Manhattan greeted the students, teachers and parents who filled the school’s courtyard on a cool spring evening. She shared how she too was born in the Caribbean and that the Haitian earthquake hit close to home, “It could have happened in my home country.”
This was an additional way of personalizing the event about to begin, a fundraiser for Haiti to go to scholarships for students and to help build a high school in Citi Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest zones.
Last year, Gregory Grene was a humanities student teacher at the school and his one twin brother Andrew worked for the UN in Haiti and spoke in late 2009 to the Salk School’s students about his work there. Weeks later, Andrew was killed in the January 2010 earthquake.
This is the second year that the Salk School community of kids, parents and teachers held a fundraiser responding to the Haitian catastrophe. The effort not only reflects the school’s very personal connection to the earthquake but is also a way for students to fulfill their community service, a school requirement.
Throughout the evening it was reiterated by student speakers that things taken for granted in this country like free education and especially now housing are not givens in Haiti where almost all education must be paid for and so many are living in tents.
Parents were pulled in as volunteers, bringing food, chaperoning, mixing and selling the mocktail drinks–non-alcoholic cocktails, and cleaning up.
The kid-made Haitian Carnival-inspired masks were on display; mostly girls ran a booth of face painting and boys sold Japanese Myachis-a beanbag sort of toy. Students hawked the annual literary magazine. A stall sold cards from student art.
Six bands entertained the crowd, engrossing kids and adults alike. Two kid rock bands, The Outsiders and Kid Nothing, performed. Guitar teacher Shaun Erriciello with three students executed the dueling guitars from Deliverance along with other all-guitar numbers.
And the adult bands. The violinist in the blues and rock Melodic Miners is also the Salk lead teacher, Pauline David who performed with the assistant principal’s husband, Lucas Rotman on guitar and Sarah Caswell on vocals. One of the main teacher organizers of the event, Ling Teo’s husband David Potts was the bandleader of the eponymous straight ahead jazz quartet–also performing.
And Gregory Grene, the former student teacher, played accordion with his Irish band, the jig-punk The Prodigals and energetically encouraged his kids to stand up and grove with the music.
After expenses, the event raised $4,300 going to The Andrew Grene Foundation set up by his brother and a friend. Along with providing school scholarships, The Foundation is building a high school scheduled to be completed by late summer. A portion of the monies raised is also going to Tsunami relief.