Dr. Forest Jones, principal at Andrew Lewis Middle School, had personal lessons to share with his sixth graders about respect and compassion.
As a part of Black History Month, Jones joined ALMS business teacher Nancy Page for a presentation to the sixth grade students. Jones told some personal family stories, particularly involving integration.
Jones’ parents were both educators during the integration of the school systems in Virginia–his father was the first black teacher at Campbell County High School and his mom was one of the first black teachers at her elementary school, Jones said.
“They both had a great experience integrating,” he said. His parents lived in North Carolina in the 1950s, and were no strangers to segregation and the “separate but equal” policies in place before integration in the 1960s.
“My mom was at the March on Washington, and she says it’s one of the best experiences she’s ever had,” Jones said. “Even to this day it’s affected her.”
The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are words that Jones and his parents strive to live by. Jones shared a story from when he was visiting Las Vegas over Winter Break this school year.
“We were walking to our hotel, and there were four people behind us from the Middle East,” Jones said. When a homeless person said some nasty things to the group behind him, Jones had an important decision to make: speak up or keep quiet?
“What do you think I did?” he asked the students. “The right thing,” they answered.
The sixth-graders were right. Jones turned around and told the man not to speak that way. “I took a chance,” he said, acknowledging that the gentleman could have hit him for speaking up. Luckily, he didn’t. “When I went to sleep that night, I thought, ‘I did a pretty good thing today,’ ” Jones said.
Jones hoped to teach his students to be tolerant, accepting and respectful; Page continued that important lesson by showing a video about segregation and integration–and asking the students to empathize with the men, women and children in the clip.
“I think about the friendships that were missed, the advances, inventions and opportunities missed because people were judging by skin color,” Page told the students.
“It is amazing looking at you guys being good to each other,” Jones said.