FEBRUARY 25, 1958
NEW YORK—I went up to the George Washington High School here in New York City last Friday to receive the annual school award. The whole school, 4,200 pupils strong, votes on who shall receive this award, and I felt it was a great honor these young people had done me.
At the same time, since it was Brotherhood Week, Inwood Lodge and Chapter of B'nai B'rith presented two citizenship certificates to two members of the student body, Ernest Ostheimer and Phyllis Seidman.
Mr. Joseph P. Lash, the executive director of the Citizens Committee for Children, was asked to present these. There were two beautiful songs sung by the choral ensemble which made this ceremony memorable and enjoyable for me.
Kenneth Moldow is president of the Student Government Organization, which must function well, for this school has only 3,400 seats and 4,200 pupils and in September it will have 5,000!
Crowding can make even a very fine school like this one less able to function well. This is a beautiful building, and I think the principal, Henry T. Hillson, must be a very fine person or, with such overcrowding, the school could not have established such an outstanding record.
It has not had a single case of racial or religious disturbance, and it is completely integrated, with about 28 percent Negro, 12 percent Puerto Rican, and the rest made up of Greek, German, and Americans of innumerable foreign descent—a little United Nations right in one New York City school.
The school already has to have staggered hours, and seats, once vacated temporarily by some pupils, are used by others. Extracurricular activities suffer, too.
I think what schools need in this city is more space for seats and more people for guidance and the kind of work that helps young people living in a big city like New York to keep out of trouble.
I hate the idea, which the Board of Education has come up with, of placing all suspended children into special schools which, of necessity, cannot be as good as the others and which will be labelled so that a stigma will be attached to every child going there. I can't help feeling that the Board of Education showed little backbone in not telling the Mayor that the could not play fast and loose with the budget of the schools.
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I received another award, which I deeply appreciated, at a Youth Brotherhood Dinner Thursday night. This is a yearly affair held under the auspices of the Greater New York Area National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Delegates from many of the schools in the greater New York area attended. These are the young people who are concerned about working for good conditions in their schools and in their communities.
It was really a memorable evening, because this is another area in which B'nai B'rith works to awaken early in young people a sense of responsibility for their citizenship.
A boy, Rinico Sawyer, made a short speech on "What We Have Been Doing for Brotherhood," and I understand his school is the George Washington High School which I visited Friday morning.
His account was so well given that as I looked at the eager young faces, I felt there was much hope for the future in the young people, and I think we can safely trust the future in their hands if we give them guidance and sympathetic understanding.