District News

District News

HCC Students Celebrate the Power of One with Annual Event on Making a Difference

If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be?

That thought-provoking question was posed to seventh and eighth graders at H.C. Crittenden Middle School recently, and the answers came quickly: Cancer. Racism. Gun violence. Overpopulation. World hunger. Poverty.

Students identified these important issues on May 7 during the keynote address that led off the 14th annual Power of One Day, the schoolwide event aimed at inspiring students to make a difference in the world and showing them that they themselves have the power to do so.

“The Power of One Day brings to life our H.C. Crittenden message of upstandership - that we all have the ability to help others and make a difference,” HCC Principal Kim Lapple said. “Students’ participation in the day reinforces and brings to light the power of the individual as a member of a community. It’s an inspiring event for our entire school community.”

The keynote address, featuring speakers Brianna Williams and Gabrielle Caddell of WE Schools, focused on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and on students becoming leaders for change.

Ms. Williams and Ms. Caddell, who also spoke to the sixth graders, cited various problems around the world, including the dire consequences of unsafe drinking water and the challenges of global hunger. These issues, they noted, may seem scary or overwhelming, especially because they are happening today, not 100 or 200 years in the future.

“There are so many issues going on in our world that demand our attention, but also demand our action,” Ms. Williams said.

“The good thing is that all of you still have the ability to create change and reverse some of these negative consequences that are happening today,” she added.

They explained that the first six Sustainable Development Goals deal with eradicating poverty, the next six are related to industry and the economy, three more deal with the environment and the final two are on peace and justice and strong institutions, and partnerships.

The speakers discussed different leadership styles, like being a rebel, a helper, an organizer or a designer. They encouraged students to focus on one of the goals that inspires them and to take action using one of the leadership styles to create change.

“The biggest thing that we want you to take away from our talk this morning is to pay attention to these SDGs, but also continue doing the work that it is going to take to reverse some of the negative consequences that we’re seeing,” Ms. Williams said.

Ms. Caddell concluded their talk with this message: “You all are the ones who are going to lead for change.”

After the keynote addresses, sixth graders attended workshops that focused on various ways of making a difference. There were 14 workshops, including sessions on recycling and Eco-bags, adopting a dog, a composting workshop led by North Castle Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro, and sessions on the Midnight Run relief missions, making care packages for overseas troops and Islamophobia in America.

A mix of students from all grades attended a workshop with the keynote speakers to work on leadership skills and they helped organize a Walk for Water to raise money for charities that support clean water in a developing nation. The walk, held a few days later, was a success and  brought students and faculty together while raising funds and awareness.

A sneaker keychain sale and bake sale on the Power of One Day will provide new sneakers to homeless children who live in the Coachman Family Center shelter in White Plains.

HCC sixth grade literature teacher Mary Staudt, who organized the Power of One Day, said the event is aimed at inspiring students to act, either today or in the future.

“It’s teaching kids to become solutionary to tackle world problems and to use their passions and talents to create positive change,” Ms. Staudt said. “I hope they’re inspired to find something they really care about and to try to be a positive agent for change.”

Noting that some of the workshops were led by Byram Hills High School seniors, Ms. Staudt said that the Power of One Day is a day that many students remember. Even if the message to make a difference doesn’t take hold immediately, it may one day.

“Sometimes you’re just planting a seed,” she said. “They’re 11, but maybe in high school or later on, it will come to fruition. Kids remember this day. It’s something we hope will last and will stick with them.”

During H.C. Crittenden’s Power of One Day, students organized a Walk for Water, which was held a few days later and raised funds for charities that support clean water in a developing nation.

The Power of One Day organizer, HCC literature teacher Mary Staudt, center, with the keynote speakers from WE Schools, Gabrielle Caddell, at left, and Brianna Williams.

During H.C. Crittenden’s Power of One Day on May 7, students attended workshops that focused on different ways of making a difference.



HCC Students and Faculty Open Up in Student Voice Circles Workshops Aimed at Supporting a Healthy School Environment

The gym at H.C. Crittenden Middle School stood nearly silent, the quiet broken by the sounds of footsteps moving back and forth across the floor, sneakers squeaking along the way.

Students, faculty and staff stood in two lines facing each other, and were invited to take three steps forward each time a statement read aloud was true for them. With nearly three dozen statements that touched on race, ancestry, family makeup and feelings, participants were in steady motion, stepping out when they felt comfortable recognizing a part of their identity without having to say a word.

“Please step forward if you believe your teachers and principal see you as a respectful person,” facilitator Trent Day Hall read aloud. Participants were also invited to step forward if they or anyone they knew had ever been teased, made fun of or called a bad name.

Some statements drew just a few participants, others attracted many, including the penultimate statement in one session, which touched on a priority at Crittenden: “Please step forward if you ever wished that people would just be more kind at school.”

The activity, called an inclusion line, was part of the Student Voice Circles workshop that all middle schoolers attended in October in groups of 70.

Broken into smaller groups that were seated around a circle, the students and adults took turns sharing parts of their identity as they got to know each other better. They participated in the inclusion line and returned to their circles to reflect on the experience. They concluded the 2 ó-hour workshop by writing down recommendations and commitments for improving the school.

The goal, Mr. Hall explained, was for participants to get to know each other in a fundamental way, to humanize each other, and ultimately, to work together to discover ways of improving the school environment. He encouraged students to stretch themselves, to keep an open mind and to take a risk, noting that growth was possible even in a short amount of time.

The social-emotional learning workshop was aimed at “teaching people about themselves so they can then understand the complexities of another person,” Mr. Hall explained.

“If everyone in the school is honoring every other person, then there’s no reason why people should ever find themselves being bullied or made fun of because we all understand the inherent dignity in everyone,” he said.

Principal Kim Lapple said the Student Voice Circles workshop exceeded expectations for fostering a greater sense of community at HCC.

“It was phenomenal,” she said. “The Voice Circles have far surpassed all that we were hoping for in terms of setting a climate of inclusion and student empowerment. The students, administrators and faculty left feeling invigorated and energized in our work together. It has set us on an incredibly focused path.”

Now that the student body has learned how to share their thoughts through Voice Circles, HCC will continue to use the model.

“We’re going to give students a leadership opportunity to become Voice Circle ambassadors,” Ms. Lapple said. “We will train those students HCC Students and Faculty Open Up in Student Voice Circles and they will be able to identify topics we feel will be helpful to explore with our students.”

Voice Circles will be utilized to promote social interactions within the HCC community and to also learn more about student perspectives about their experiences at H.C. Crittenden. Topics that Ms. Lapple plans to look at through Voice Circles include promoting kindness, and examining when kids feel connected to the school community and when they do not.

“We want to continue this work where students can participate and have their voice heard in the school community in a way that we can hear them, and then figure out the next steps to better our community,” she said.

Several students said the workshop shined a light on the personal, often hidden, experiences of fellow students.

“This has changed me by showing me that I’m not alone when it comes to feeling scared or insecure or alone,” seventh grader Matthew Mackohe said. “It really did open my eyes.”

He learned that he has more in common with some students than he realized, and felt that using Voice Circles at HCC could help bridge the gap between friend groups.

“I think it could help by helping open up people,” he said. “I think it can be good if everyone gives it a chance.”

Another seventh grader, Javier Benerofe, called the workshop productive.

“It opened a lot of people’s eyes to what other people are experiencing, and that in some ways, I’m not alone in this thing and there are other people experiencing the same thing,” he said, adding that he hadn’t known so many students had felt bullied or alone.

The best part was writing the recommendations and commitments, he said, “because I think it’s important for the students to have a say in how their school is run and to be able to really recommend things to their administration to make change for the better.”

Ms. Lapple says she hopes that Voice Circles will help create a school community where students are empowered to be involved and make a difference. And a more engaged 

student body will lead to academic growth.

“In the end, this work will help HCC become more connected and more empowered,” she said. “When students feel their voices matter, they are seven times more likely to be engaged and academically motivated.”

HCC is grateful to the Byram Hills Education Foundation for supporting this important workshop.


  1. Trent Day Hall was the facilitator for the Voice Circles workshops that H.C. Crittenden Middle School students, faculty and staff attended in October.


  2. Students and faculty met in small groups during the Voice Circles workshops that took place at H.C. Crittenden in October. In their circles, they shared parts of the identity and reflected on ways to help improve the school culture.


  3. Toward the end of the Voice Circles workshops, participants returned to their circles to write down recommendations and commitments.


  4. Students wrote down their recommendations and commitments.


With Space to Collaborate or Work Independently, Renovated HCC Library is a Sparkling Jewel


Since the start of the school year, the newly renovated library at H.C. Crittenden Middle School has become an extremely popular spot among students and teachers alike.

Over the summer, the library was transformed into a fresh, modern space that offers the flexibility for students to pursue independent or group study, and to participate in various learning activities that go beyond the simple joy of getting lost in a good book.

The new furniture is creative, comfortable and welcoming as well.

“Our new library is one of the shining jewels of H.C. Crittenden,” Principal Kim Lapple said. “When you walk in, you want to engage, explore and pursue your interests. The library creates an environment and space that invites everyone in the HCC community to be curious and involved in learning.”

By knocking down a wall to enlarge and open the space and removing unneeded bookshelves and outdated books, the revamped library can now accommodate more people, and it has new distinct spaces to meet the diverse needs of students working there simultaneously.

The Cafe area has a mix of high and low tables for small group meetings; the Creative Corner features a makerspace for hands-on activities like building and crafts and an enclosed room for audio and video recording; a reading area has soft chairs with high backs that offer a bit of privacy; the Main Stage features rectangular tables and chairs plus soft, modular couches and a Promethean Board; and the Huddle is where a larger group can gather in a semicircle for presentations or lessons.

In this modern-day library, gone are the heavy wooden tables and clunky chairs that were hard to move. The new tables and contoured chairs are light and on wheels, making it easier for students to collaborate and for the furniture to be rearranged as needed. The soft furniture options often fill up first; the students love them.

The library also got a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting, flooring, LED lighting and blinds.

When students arrive, either with their class, at lunch or after school, they gravitate toward the area that best suits their needs.

“Our HCC library is a place for all students where they can pursue all of their interests - whether they want to collaborate, create and investigate, think or read quietly,” Ms. Lapple said.

“Each area is very welcoming. A welcoming learning space enhances and maximizes each student's ability to learn - both collaboratively or as an individual.”

While one goal of the upgrade was to offer spaces for collaborative and individual work, another was to have enough space for more than one class to use the library at once, said Barbara Barthelmes, the library media specialist at HCC.

“Now it’s so much easier when we put the teams together to have everybody here at one time,” Mrs. Barthelmes said.

With the renovation, the layout of the library changed as well. Bookshelves were moved and the fiction section was reorganized so books are now grouped by genre, rather than by the author’s last name, which makes it easier for students to browse by topic.

“It’s a nice, fresh selection of books,” Mrs. Barthelmes said. “It’s very appealing and easy to browse for the kids.”

The library has seen an increase in foot traffic since the beginning of the school year, and Mrs. Barthelmes says it’s being enjoyed by students and faculty members.

“It’s a really beautiful space and it’s spacious enough to accommodate large groups but still give people privacy,” she said. “It’s fresh and new and bright and has a lot of different, interesting places to gather and work together.”

Just as public libraries around the country have done in recent years, the HCC library has adapted to the needs of its young patrons.

“It fits that idea of a modern library being a place where people meet and connect and learn from each other and share, and not just a place where they go and check out a book and leave,” Mrs. Barthelmes said. “It’s meant to be a place where you stay and make connections.”

The District and HCC are grateful to the Byram Hills Education Foundation for this generous grant.

Students working at a high table in the Cafe area of the newly renovated library at H.C. Crittenden Middle School.

Students gather in the Huddle in the renovated library at HCC.

The Critter

Click here to check out the most recent issue of our school newspaper for the 2017-2018 school year.