Sean Brooks, Assistant to the Chef, enjoying the book, Finding Langston.
Read with Us! Through 'One School, One Book' Program, All of Us Are Finding Langston
In the spirit of “One Book, One Philadelphia,” St. James School launched our own version with “One School, One Book” on April 26th with Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. This initiative, run by our English Language Arts team, invites students, teachers, and staff to read the same book, share our reactions and thoughts, and experience an activity together. Finding Langston, winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction, tells the tale of an 11-year-old boy from Alabama named Langston who moves with his father to Chicago in 1946 after the death of his mother. The story incorporates themes of race, class, post-war American life in the North and South, and the poetry of Langston Hughes. 
4th grader Khloe reading the first "One School, One Book" selection.
This is the 19th year that the Free Library of Philadelphia has presented One Book, One Philadelphia. The goal of this and similar programs, including ours, is to inspire a shared love of reading and build community. Associate Director of Donor and Volunteer Engagement Maggie Sanborn says, “I am enjoying learning about the character Langston and his new-found love of books and the library.” Fourth grader Sidora says: “I like how Langston is inspired to read even though his dad doesn’t want him to.”

Students and adults can be seen reading Finding Langston all across the campus — curled up in chairs, on a picnic bench, or under trees in the spring warmth. Students are eager to discuss Langston’s experiences with the adults, who are equally interested to learn the students' impressions of the protagonist’s challenges and triumphs. Asked for his impression, 7th grader Jonathan says, “I like how Langston expresses his feelings. He has challenges with bullying and moving from the South, but he’s trying to find himself.”   

The ELA team has provided the entire school with a reading schedule to help keep everyone "on the same page,” so to speak. Sixth grader Tineef was recently heard asking Director of Graduate Support Kevin Todd, “Did you do your reading homework?”

We invite you to join us in reading this memorable work of historical fiction, so that you too can experience an aspect of St. James’ community life. One School, One Book will bring us that much closer together.
Members of the Young Professionals group include, from left, Adriana Gonzalez, Joe Pecora, Aliina Ross, Brandon Ryan and Mandisa John. Not pictured: staff members Maggie Sanborn, Nick Gurol, and Claire Mao.
Let's Get This Group Up and Running! 🏃🏽‍♀️
When a few of our younger supporters asked about getting more involved with St. James School, the SJS Young Professionals group was formed. Members of the YoPros, as they call themselves, volunteer their time to organize events for our community.

In the 2018-2019 school year, the group’s focus was on restarting the annual 5K Run on Kelly Drive. The race was held in spring 2019 and was a big success, raising over $20,000 for St. James from runners, walkers, and supporters.

The volunteers found our school through different paths. Joe Pecora and Adriana Gonzalez found us by attending the Church of St. James the Less and later got married at the church! Father Andrew Kellner, along with Saint Mark's Church founded City Camp, our summer camp that started in 2009, and recruited Aliina Ross to volunteer, Aliina has been volunteering at St. James School since.

With the pandemic making the 5K a no-go in 2020, the group has organized virtual events and gatherings. To spread the news about St. James to a larger audience, they have combined virtual information sessions with cocktail-making lessons, hosted virtual Quizzo, and led socially distanced yoga — all of which have brought new supporters to the school community. After our pandemic-related hiatus, the 5K will be back this fall — stay tuned for more details!
Interested in joining the YoPro group? Contact Maggie Sanborn.
Staff members Angel Nalubega and Claire Mao with the book "Courageous Conversations," a resource used by the Racial Equity Team to foster closer relationships among employees.
Racial Equity Team Fostering 'Courageous Conversations' Among Staff Members
Racial equity is one of our core values at St. James School. As a school staffed by mostly white adults, we actively seek, challenge, and evaluate racial equity and inclusivity in our policies and practices. This includes being mindful of the reading material we offer our students, striving to hire people from diverse backgrounds, and organizing conversations on racial equity topics to build relationships among staff members. 

Our Racial Equity Team (RET), led by 4th Grade Teacher Steph Padilla, is comprised of employees who volunteer extra time outside of their daily roles to plan workshops and discussions during Professional Development days. With the help of the book Courageous Conversations about Race, by Glenn E. Singleton, the RET has facilitated conversations about topics ranging from microaggressions, to current events, to institutional racism.

During one of the first RET sessions of this school year, staff members wrote a “racial autobiography” in which they reflected on their life experiences with race and shared as they felt comfortable. Director of Student & Family Services Levi Lee says he enjoys RET sessions because they "bring awareness to diversity and people's backgrounds as well as unity to the school.” Levi emphasized the necessity of “considering each others' experiences when we communicate."

The most recent RET session, in early April, concerned the importance of diversity of background and voices in the workplace, with the goal of making everyone feel comfortable and represented in conversations. 

Steph believes “the RET specifically fosters closer relationships among the staff members, [which has] allowed us to truly see each other and begin the process of better understanding each other.” She noted that this is especially important at a place like St. James School where connections between colleagues are so significant.
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St. James School is a faith-based Philadelphia middle school in the Episcopal tradition, committed to educating students from an under-resourced neighborhood within a nurturing environment. The school is a community that provides a challenging academic program and encourages the development of the moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical and creative gifts in its students.
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