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Teachable moment: Whitney School students engaged in community-based opposition to landfill expansion

The image of an expanded landfill near the doorsteps of Whitney Achievement Elementary School now has students involved in a community-based effort to make sure it does not become a reality.

“We [Whitney School leaders and faculty) had been communicating with the parents of our students on this issue for some time to ensure they were engaged and sharing their sentiments about the proposed expansion,” said Dr. LaSandra Young, Principal of Whitney School.

“Through our parent correspondence, it occurred to us that this is a great moment for our impressionable students to learn what it means to be a concerned and involved citizen; and demonstrate how they can use their individual power and influence to become community advocates.”

The “teachable moment” for students at Whitney School has been created by a proposal from Memphis Wrecking Company that would expand a landfill to within 300 yards of the school.  Against this backdrop, the Whitney School community is attempting to do its part to join the collective efforts of other Frayser residents, organizations and leaders opposing the landfill expansion.

Although the proposal for landfill expansion was rejected by the Shelby County Land Use Control Board in September, the final decision will be made by the Memphis City Council at their December 5th meeting.

Whitney teachers have crafted mini lessons in civics, English and grassroots activism to further engage students in addressing the sensitive community issue. Students have been  participating in a letter-writing campaign to encourage members of the Memphis City Council to reject the landfill expansion proposal.

Additionally, lower grade students at Whitney have been creating signs and posters that will convey their opposition to the landfill at the upcoming Council meeting.

Dr. Young sees the proposed landfill expansion as an opportunity to share the powerful and unfolding history of how students can serve on the front lines of social and grassroots activism.

The Dec. 5 Memphis City Council session is set for 3:30 p.m. at City Hall. Dr. Young is asking the Greater Memphis community for a show of support.

“Our residents and our children are not pleased that our community is seen as an acceptable place for a dumping ground,” she said. “We will continue to fight back and make our voices heard.”



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