Dispatch frontman and Sherborn native Chad Stokes, shown here with sixth grader Miles McGehee and eighth grader Caroline Gallagher, spoke to students about social justice. (Robert Rosen/Hometown Weekly)
By Robert Rosen
Hometown Weekly Staff
With school closed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Dover-Sherborn Middle School honored the civil rights pioneer with an all-day celebration on Friday, January 15 by utilizing the theme “be the change you want to see in the world,” a quote made famous by Gandhi.
The celebration took a lot of time and effort to plan and was put together by a committee of several faculty members, including art teacher Cathy Simino, French teacher Callie Egan and guidance counselor Kelsey Ferranti.
These dedicated faculty members, among others, organized students into groups that they had never worked with before and arranged for them to attend workshops throughout the day where they worked to come up with ideas that they felt could change the school or even the world.
There were also workshops where students worked together to design artwork that represented King and his beliefs. Many students chose to focus on King’s famous “I have a dream” speech and built their designs around that premise.
In one classroom workshop, which was being supervised by English teacher Laura Mullen, students representing all three grades at the middle school broke up into four groups and worked to come up with an idea that could improve the school.
One group was very focused on the environment, deciding that they wanted to lower the number of disposable water bottles being used. A second group focused on getting more shelf space for their binders at school.
A third group wanted to improve the school store, even going so far as coming up with a way where students could pay with a pin number so they wouldn’t have to carry cash.
The fourth group wanted to devote an entire room to a lost and found so it would be easier to find lost items.
While Mullen checked in with the students periodically to see how they were doing, she mostly just observed as the students worked well together in their groups trying to “be the change you want to see in the world.”
An exciting part of the celebration for both the students and faculty was the appearance and participation of Dispatch frontman Chad Stokes, who is a 1994 graduate of Dover-Sherborn High and also attended the Middle School and Pine Hill.
In addition to being a star musician, Stokes is know for his passion for social justice and community service, which made him a perfect fit to visit the middle school as part of their Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration as he believes strongly in King’s vision.
Stokes and his band started the activist group Calling All Crows to inspire public service and promote human rights. He spoke to students as part of the day’s workshops about the importance of getting involved and helping other people.
Stokes told the students about a death row case in which he feels strongly that the convicted man did not get a fair trial, and he pointed out some of the facts that led him to that conclusion. He said it’s important for things to be fair for people, and he believes strongly in fighting for that.
Stokes, who said his band does some sort of community service project in every city they perform in when they’re on tour, said it was great to be back at the middle school and that growing up in the Dover-Sherborn schools had a huge impact on his life.
“I remember as a kid when alums came back, especially musicians, and it had a huge impact,” Stokes said when asked why it’s important for him to come back and interact with local kids.
“I have to hand it to the music departments, starting at Pine Hill. Mrs. Winter, Marilyn Dowd, Bob Martell… It’s such a small town but you can do everything here. The administration encouraged trying everything. It’s such a warm community because it’s so small, but it gives you an opportunity for everything.”
Following the workshops, the entire school filled Mudge Auditorium for performances from the bands and choruses, all of whom performed songs dedicated to making change and continuing with the theme of the day.
In addition to the middle school groups, the high school a cappella group made an appearance on stage, and lead vocalist Meg Spence and the rest of the high schoolers received a rousing ovation.
Stokes also performed two songs on the guitar while singing, and before each song he explained the meaning behind the lyrics as they both were about making change.
Finally, the assembly concluded with eighth grade English teacher Kevin McIntosh taking the microphone and addressing the entire school. McIntosh spoke about Marilyn Dowd, a longtime music teacher at the middle school who retired in June and passed away last month. He told stories about Dowd, and reminded students about how she always made them feel better when they were having a bad day.
Students listened intently to McIntosh as he spoke, remaining quiet except for the occasional smile and acknowledgement of a good memory of Dowd.
McIntosh concluded by inviting all of the faculty up onto the stage and he led a song in tribute to Dowd as teachers, and Stokes, played instruments along with the singing.
It was a fitting tribute to a beloved teacher and the perfect end to the middle school’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Robert Rosen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @roberterosen.