Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter
January/February 2021
Volume 2 Issue 3
Guiding Principle of Diversity and Inclusion
The Buford City School System believes in creating and maintaining a safe, caring, and mutually respectful and inclusive environment where all students, staff, and families are valued for their diverse cultural heritages.
Did You Know?
Buford City Schools currently serves over 500 students in our English for Speakers of Other Languages program. Students receive instruction in language acquisition as teachers work to improve their English proficiency in four key areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Last school year, BCS exited 23.2% of our students from the program. This exit rate is one of the highest in the state! Exited students have shown consistent growth in obtaining proficiency in the English language. Kuddos to the teachers, students, and parents!
Parents Pass the US Citizenship Test!
ESOL teacher Anna Borck offered encouragement and support to Zainab and Hanan throughout the process of becoming US citizens.
Pictured left to right: Zainab, Hanan, and Anna.
Hi, my name is Zainab. I was born in Iraq Baghdad. I have lived in America 10 years. I decided to take the citizenship exam because it was important to me to be a citizen of this country. Also, it is a right for legal immigrants and refugees to take the citizenship exam after spending five years in America.

I prepared for the exam by devoting all my time to studying. The exam was not difficult for me because I have been speaking and reading English since I was six years old. I was fortunate to attend a very good school in Iraq. US citizenship means a lot to me and my family because I have rights in this country. We believe we have a good future here.

Hi my name is Hanan Salman. I was born in Iraq in 1972. I have been in America 8 years.
I took the exam twice before passing on the third time. I succeeded! It was hard for me but, I did it! Now I’m waiting for my Oath Ceremony. I decided to take the exam for US citizenship so my family could live a safe and good life.
Mrs. Elena Vo, Buford Academy's New Principal!
Mrs. Elena Vo was recently named the new principal of Buford Academy. She will begin her duties there this spring. Mrs. Vo is a native of New York. Growing up, she was fortunate to be able to spend time with her aunts, uncles, and cousins in Ecuador and Venezuela. Elena brings over 30 years worth of experience on every level including general education, ESOL, and Special Education. Mrs. Vo's passion for working with students and families has been the foundation of her career. She believes in educating the "whole" family.
Congratulations to Mrs. Vo on this historic achievement in Buford City Schools.
Lunar New Year Celebration
February 12th was the start of the Lunar New Year. Mrs. Botham's 1st grade class celebrated by reading books, making lanterns, and completing a special coloring page. Daisy, one of her students, proudly shared her family’s traditions and brought in red envelopes filled with chocolate gold coins. All of the students enjoyed learning about the Lunar New Year!
Recognition of Black History Month
K-5 students participated in the National Council of Teachers of English annual African American Read-in. Students had many opportunities to read or listen to books written by African American authors.
Over 500 6th-8th graders submitted entries for our inaugural poetry contest!
Check out some of the other activities that happened in February...
Buford Elementary
BES students were eager to find out who was in the
Mystery Bag each day!
Buford Academy
3rd graders made Soul Food Recipe books. Cornbread and sweet tea were some of the classes' favorites.
3rd graders virtually met local author,
9 yr. old Mark, as he read his book Knocking Greatness Out of the Park. Mark wrote his first book to inspire and motivate readers to dream big, set goals, and MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Mrs. Wilcox's 3rd graders enjoyed listening to Mark's book!
Mrs. Harvell's first graders used PebbleGo to research a famous African American. Their Biography Projects included important information, a timeline, and character traits.
1st graders show off some of the books they read.
2nd graders in Mandie Johnson's class listened attentively as parents
read virtually.
Buford Senior Academy
BSA's media center display focused on men and women who have positively contributed
to the world of sports.
4th and 5th graders voted on the sport figure they enjoyed
learning about the most.
Paras and teachers celebrated the month in style!
Buford Middle School
Mrs. Castleman, BMS Social Studies teacher, introduced students to famous African Americans at the start of each class.
BMS students also completed and presented research projects.
Buford High School
Artist: Enjoli P.
Artist: Ewuresi A.
Artist: Madison G.
Mrs. Barge's visual arts students studied the work of portrait painter, Nigerian-American Kehinde Wiley.
Featured Artist:
Alana J.
Alana is one of Mrs. Kim Barge's talented artists. She has always loved
watching Marvel Movies. Black Panther really resonated with her because of the vibrant colors, art, and culture this movie displays. Chadwick Boseman played one of the main characters T'Challa who was also the Black Panther. Boseman was strong willed, kind hearted, and an outstanding actor. He left a legacy for many people to remember. 

Alana used different sized Pigma Micron pens to create her art piece.
Although she is not inspired by any particular artists, she is inspired by the character of the person she's drawing.
As for the future, she hasn't thought of any plans just yet. She's still developing her skills. 
Check out these other amazing creations!
Artist: Aaron L.
Artist: Emily J.
Artist: Nick W.
Artist: Jada C.
BHS Writers Inspired by Amanda Gorman
National Youth Poet Laureate
9th grade students in Dr. Simmons and Mr. Gillis' English classes shared their thoughts on what they believed to be the message Ms. Gorman was trying to convey with her poem,
"The Hill We Climb".
This poem "The Hill We Climb" is about the United States of America, the ups and downs of our country. Amanda Gorman starts off this speech talking about the negatives of this country saying things like "We've braved the belly of the beast" (Gorman). She is using analogies like this to show that our country is far from perfect and we have our problems. There are many issues with this country that we as a society have to resolve. One of the things that Amanda talks about is how she is a dark skin black girl standing up on a stage speaking for the president. In a country where people of color have been heavily discriminated against, this is a major deal. One of the reasons that she brings this up is to show the mistakes of this country's past. Not to belittle the country, but to show how far we've come as a society. Some of the words that are thought of when America is brought up are unity, opportunity, liberty, and freedom. As a country we, are working towards those things because we've never truly had all of these things in America. America has gone through war, civil rights movements, depression, and many other hardships in the past, and we will also face them in the future. In the poem, Amanda delivers a powerful line saying, "And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose" (Gorman). America isn't perfect, and it never will be. There are always going to be challenges ahead, but what's important is that we as American citizens face them together as one union. As long as we, the American people, get a little bit better every day we can achieve this goal of a better nation: a nation that stands tall, a nation that stands together. Amanda shows what the American dream should look like and what the United States should be striving for as a country. That was the purpose of this poem "The Hill We Climb".
Kayden S.
“The Hill We Climb” is an impactful poem filled with details and goals to unify our country. The poet, Amanda Gorman, recited this poem to the people of America to convey a message of overcoming injustice. The poem states, “We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man” (Gorman 2). Because of America’s earlier history coupled with our tumultuous recent history, accepting differences has been a problem in many stages of the past. A unified nation must be together as a whole with no conflicts based on matters such as differences in culture or color. Gorman also uses the alliterative letter “c” sound to increase the rhythm of the line while delivering impact with every word. Additionally, the poem states, “...because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation” (Gorman 8). Here Gorman shows the importance of solving issues and overcoming differences now instead of later. This is essential in America, as with every other country, as generations need to be raised with the assurance that they will not have to deal with the same problems that their ancestors did. Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” carries a patriotic message that encourages us to overcome injustice and in so doing, make America a better country.
Skylar G.
While it is impossible to achieve a perfect nation, poet Amanda Gorman reminds the reader in her poem “The Hill We Climb” that with effort as a collective nation, the United States can become a nation with purpose. Gorman acknowledges the struggle America has encountered in the line, “... we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” (Gorman ln. 1). With this metaphor, the poet compares the toils of the present to darkness, covering everything and making it difficult to see a light, a future in which people do not suffer so horribly and peace is ubiquitous. This metaphor is suitable for describing the seemingly never-ending struggle the U.S. has endured with the pandemic along with other major events of late. 
However, Gorman goes on to provide a solution, saying people should not “...march back to what was,” but, “move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free” (Gorman lns. 26-27). Through her personification of the United States, Gorman illustrates a union between all its citizens. Her words emphasize that in order to move forward, harmony must be sought collectively. Through her powerful words and use of strong figurative language, poet Amanda Gorman portrays a country that cooperates to work towards a common aspiration of peace, freedom, equality, and unity.
Madeleine B.
The inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman highlights the important message that the United States needs to be united as a country. The message of the poem is that moving forward from hardships results in improvement in the future. In the poem, the text reads, "...where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" (Gorman). This piece of the text includes the hyperbolic “never-ending shade” in which the never-ending shade is the adversity that must be overcome. The relationship of the light to that shade is the opportunity to find the actual solution. The solution implicated in the poem would be coming together as Americans to strive for a better country. The overall quote asks the question of where the resolution to the situation can be found in an environment that is dire. Gorman also states, "...our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation" (Gorman). These lines reveal that not doing anything about the hardships presented will not result in progress; in fact: things will stay the same. Facing those problems head on is an important step in making sure that historical issues won't arise again. If the adversity isn't overcome, the next generation of people won't be able to move on from the hardships they face as well. Amanda Gorman’s poem expresses that fellow Americans have to be willing to stand together for change in order to prosper.
 Ashley L.
Employee Highlights
Tara Armstead
BHS English Teacher
Ms. Armstead is a 1994 BHS graduate. She was a very busy student/athlete playing basketball, volleyball, running track and playing the clarinet in the marching band. She earned a full scholarship to Rollins College and graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor's degree in English. She currently teaches Advanced Composition to seniors.
Ms. Armstead's family has very deep roots in Buford's black history. Here's her story...

Both of my great grandparents, Hubert and Gladys Buffington, owned and operated a well-known cafe in Buford. It was literally called "The Cafe" by the people of the community. She was born around 1905 and he was born around 1907. He passed away during the 1970's, so I do not have any personal memories of my great grandfather. Grandma Gladys passed away in 1992 during my sophomore year of high school. I have so many wonderful memories of her! 

I have heard many stories about both of my great grandparents regarding The Cafe, which they operated for at least 15 years starting in the late 1950's. Many people knew it as a place to buy staples like milk, bread, cooked foods, and even sweets. Several of my relatives including my mother served as cashiers and helpers in the store, but the power couple did most of the work themselves. It was a gathering place on the weekends and maybe some evenings for teens too.

My parents' generation came of age at that time, listening to the jukebox and shooting pool there. It was a dignified establishment with plenty of clean fun for everyone. During Buford's period of racial segregation, it was certainly a place that made the black community proud.

At the turn of the century, eighth grade was as far as black people could go in school. Grandma Gladys' eighth-grade education and Grandpa Hubert's fourth grade education helped them to defy the odds and build a legacy for us. When he died, Grandma Gladys transformed the store into a boarding house. She rented rooms to people who needed housing well into the 1980's. The renters, or "boarders" as we called them, would leave for work throughout the day. I would help Grandma clean the boarding house by sweeping, mopping, etc. I don't know of any written contracts or lease agreements; handshakes and cash every Friday was sufficient.
My great grandmother instilled many character traits in me. She symbolized quiet strength. You don't have to be the loudest person in the room to be heard. I learned to let my actions and character speak for me and to make sure that my word is always my bond. If she said it, you could "take it to the bank."

She was definitely the backbone of my extended family. She taught us all to live within our means and use our God-given abilities to get where we want to go in life. Whether you wanted to be a business owner like her or a college graduate, just do it. Above all else, just try to leave the world a little better than you found it. 

In her spare time, she cared for an extensive flower garden. She raised hundreds of flowers all over her property until her death. To this day, I miss the butterflies. I never realized how much the flowers meant to me until I got older and returned to Buford from college. Having a flower garden to attract butterflies is something on my bucket list. 
Janet Wansley
Transportation Department
Janet is a 1978 Buford High School graduate. She enjoyed playing basketball and softball in high school. Her 1976 basketball team often played well in county and region tournaments.

Today, Janet is one of our trusted bus drivers. She transports students with love and care each day. She began working in the transportation department in August 1996. Her employment began the year her daughter was in kindergarten. It was the perfect opportunity to be available to support her children, Danitra and AJ, throughout their school years.

Her daughter Danitra graduated in 2009. She went on to attend Harvard University where she was active in the choir, cultural organizations, and community services. After graduation, Danitra moved to New Orleans to teach 7th grade language arts at Kipp McDonogh Middle School for the Creative Arts. Currently, Danitra works for High Resolves. As a program director she develops curriculum, facilitates workshops and manages partnerships with school districts.

AJ is a 2017 BHS graduate. He attends Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. As a junior, he studied abroad in London, England. His classes included British Life and Culture. He is currently a senior majoring in Economics with an expected graduation date of June 2021. Future plans include working in the field of International Business.

Janet has enjoyed working with staff and serving the students of BCS. She believes she was placed here for a purpose..to encourage students to do their best in their academics, arts and athletics. She has also supported students in many other ways. Prior to this year, it was not uncommon to see her eating lunch with a friend or two. Her goal every day is to be a positive role model and to treat others in the same manner in which she would like to be treated.
Community Stakeholder
Rico Cunnington
Owner of Rico's World Kitchen and
Brunch Apothecary (Dacula, GA)
I was born in Cavite City, Philippines in 1973. My mother brought me to the United States when I was around 3 years old. We lived in Atlanta for a short time until my mother met Bill, my stepdad, and eventually moved to Buford the start of my second grade year after they married. Years later my sister, Lydia, was born and we have lived here since that time.

I am Filipino and my wife Katie is both Irish and Italian. The biggest way we celebrate our cultures is through food. Katie and I both like to make traditional dishes that have been passed down through our families with our own kids. The holidays are especially important when we make dishes that her grandmother taught her from her days of cooking with her in the kitchen. I cook many traditional Filipino dishes as well that I have learned from my mom and my Lola, (grandmother in the Philippines) and share them with the kids throughout the year.

We love to eat together as a family. Recently, we spent an afternoon of walking through the International Farmers Market to explore the variety of fruits, vegetables, and ingredients (mostly international candy and sweets with this bunch). It is always rewarding as a parent to see your kids choose and react to all of the many choices they make whether it be something as trivial as a piece of candy or the many choices that life’s paths present. 

Through seemingly simple things like food, we are able to create a dialogue about how other cultures outside of the United States approach daily life as well as special holidays and traditions. 
My wife Katie and I have 3 kids in BCS. Isabelle is in the ninth grade. Ella is in the seventh grade. Noah is in sixth grade. 
As of late, we have discussed in detail the challenges we all face in society that are undoubtedly unique to our times. It is clear that these things weigh heavily on our youth. The impact is real and the questions are many. But by helping them explore and celebrate what makes our family unique, we in turn hope to help them connect with communities across many cultures to better understand, accept, and love all of our neighbors.  
Community D&I Council Member
Meet KD Bryant
KD was born in middle Georgia, just below Macon. She's lived in GA her entire life. She's been in Buford since 2001. A two-time graduate of UGA, her career has taken her on a path from Augusta to Jefferson to Gainesville to Buford. Her sons are currently in 6th and 7th grade.

KD allowed us to take a quick peek into her life...
My family celebrates diversity with fun activities. We watch a lot of PBS, Discovery and History Channel documentaries. We enjoy learning about other customs and cultures outside of our own. We also watch movies, read and discuss religions, regions, countries, history, climates, languages, you name it.

The most important part for me is something my dad started when I was young. Ask questions. Nothing is off limits. If you want to know about someone or something different from what you're used to, ask about it. We had the best conversations. We were blessed to have my dad live with us the last four years of his life. He and my mom are retired teachers. Dad brought the social studies and world history discussions to life, and encouraged the boys to ask questions, the same as he did for me.

When it's time to have some fun...
My family enjoys traveling, watching movies, game night, walks in the park or neighborhood, and dance-offs. (We have an Old School dance competition to music from the 70s and 80s, usually on Seafood Fridays which is our family tradition). I usually win every time. :-)

My mom still lives with us, so the storytelling and history lessons continue. We also celebrate our own diversity. Our problem solving skills, food preferences, and even taste in music is diverse. I try to use these opportunities as teaching moments to be respectful to each other and to keep open minds. It starts at home and I pray the kiddos carry that with them throughout life.
Just in case you missed it!
Black History Month
Poetry Contest winners were recognized at the Board of Education meeting on February 22.
Each student received a gift card and certificate. First place winners read their poems aloud. We are very proud of the students. Thank you to all BMS and BHS students who submitted entries.

Pictured left to right:
Deion M. (BMS-3rd place)
Tatum O. (BHS-3rd place)
Ava J. (BMS-1st place)
Hailey C. (BHS-1st place)
Nyszjaylah C. (BHS-2nd place)
Not pictured: Christina Z. (BMS-2nd place)

If you would like to read their poems, click on the button below.
We would love to hear from you!
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