Heights High class connects with Ebola workers in Africa

Students in Courtney White's English class (from left) Nataysha Brown, Maci Grice, Deonte Martin, Ta'ron Wright, Qiasia Price, Will Moreland and De'shon Knotts.

“You never know what will happen when you send a thank you note,” said Heights High English teacher Courtney White. In December, three of her classes sent thank you notes to Ebola medical workers in Africa, thanking the caregivers for their service and asking about their motivation to do the work.

White sent the letters to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and never expected to get a reply from busy medical crisis workers.

Then, on Feb. 9, said White, the most amazing thing happened. “We received heartfelt notes from the CDC Ebola Response Team in Sierra Leone—written on the back of a big Ebola incidence map.”

So far, 30 members of the CDC team have sent notes thanking the students for their encouragement, and a CDC representative told White that letters with more in-depth answers to student questions are coming soon.

“The students were so excited to read the notes from Africa,” said White. “It made the work of the medical team so real and connected us to our reading.”

The project began in the fall, when the spread of the Ebola virus was in the news. Students read articles about the disease and discussed the medical response in Africa and the U.S.

The thank you notes were the service project aspect of the lesson, and incorporated language arts skills connected to the course.

Student Nataysha Brown said, “I think that the Ebola medical workers in Africa are like soldiers,” and was thrilled to see that one of the replies answered her question about how the workers harness the courage to serve as Ebola caregivers. Addressing Brown’s question, Barb G. responded, “How do we have indomitable spirit to do this? It is really the people of Africa who should win an award for that! The people who live here are poor financially but very rich in indomitable spirit!”

Deonte Martin was impressed that the team members had time to write to the class. “Just learning more about their day-to-day life is interesting,” he said, “and it made the lives of people so far away seem more real.”

Ta’Ron Wright identified with the caregivers' desire to serve others. He is in the criminal justice program at Heights High and said, “It’s important to show our gratitude to people who are serving others.”

Cynthia Barnes

Cynthia Barnes is the public relations liaison in the Communications and Community Engagement Department at Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 9:30 AM, 03.31.2015