PLEASANTVILLE — Students in grades K-5 at Pleasantville’s South Main Street Elementary School took part in a Black History Month march Wednesday, rallying against drugs, bullying, gangs and dropping out of school.
The school was joined in the march this year by members of the Pleasantville High School marching band — which drew the attention of residents along the parade route.
“It’s a good idea,” said Neftali Hernandez, 30, whose kindergartener was in the march. “It’s good they are learning. And we can learn something from them.”
Hernandez, who lives on Broad Street near the school, recently moved from Atlantic City after Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s much worse than Atlantic City here,” he said, adding he has heard gunshots nine times in the past year and is wary of some of his neighbors.
Students walked south along Broad Street starting at 9:30 a.m. and then made their way back to the school via Main Street, which was blocked off by police cars to allow students to march safely.
High school seniors on the drumline said they were impressed by the event. They said they didn’t have anything similar growing up, but it would have given them a very different perspective at that age.
“If you teach them now, right from wrong, when they grow up they should know right from wrong. If I could go back to this I would. It’s good to teach them now,” said Kevin McNeil, 18, who added that he believes a march such as Wednesday’s will affect the students as they get older.
“Right now they have more activities than we had, ever,” said Londgray Davis, 18.
The two, along with fellow senior Littleton Graves, said they noticed an increase in violence and “crazy” activities in the community about four years ago, when they were freshmen. Before that, when they were younger, things weren’t as bad, they said.
“Because the kids live in this community, they hear about things going on,” said Superintendent Garnell Bailey, who attended the event. “For them to make a stand against drugs, against bullying — they are educated (on those topics), they undersatnd the difference between right and wrong, and they want the community to know that they know.
“They want to be able to live and grow and be educated in an environment that’s condusive to learning. That’s it. And they should expect nothing less,” she said.
The march was dedicated to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, who died in December, and was called the “March to Rise Up.”
The parade ended on the front lawn of the school with keynote speakers that included district officials, teachers and students.
As they approached the entrance, a familiar face cheered them on: former Board of Education member Johnny McClellan, who said he thinks the district needs more of these types of educational activities for kids and teens in the area.
“They need more of it so they can understand at that age that there’s more than violence. They need more things to do,” he said, adding that while the event was a positive activity, it was only a single incident.
“After today, what are they going to do?” he asked.
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