Black History Month Door Decorating Contest


Emma Pekkarinen, School News Writer

To celebrate the achievements of African Americans and acknowledge the role they have played in our history that has been often looked over, this Black History Month, Glenbard South’s Black Excellence United hosted a door decorating contest for all second period classes. This was one of the many ways the club has been commemorating this month. 


Being one of the multiple classes that participated in this opportunity, the Special Services department highlighted African American role models who overcame a disability or some sort of obstacle in life. A description of the person as well one action verb for each hero was included. For example, the Special Service Department’s door showcased Steve Wonder, one of the most creative musical figures of the late 20th century who became blind shortly after he was born. Wonder made his recording debut at the young age of 12. He wrote songs and played multiple instruments, all with extreme talent. Wonder was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and he won the Polar Music Prize in 1999 for lifetime achievement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Wonder also was awarded a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. Four years afterwards, the Library of Congress awarded Wonder the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. This is one example of the many figures showcased on the Special Services department’s door, all of whom have made or are currently making monumental contributions to our society. 


Mrs. Lottino’s class highlighted Alice Ball who created the cure for Leprosy. Alice Ball was also the first woman and African American to graduate with a M. S. degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii, then called the College of Hawaii. Ball worked extensively to discover a treatment for Leprosy and her research led to her creating the first injectable Leprosy treatment. The method was able to cure Leprosy symptoms and was nicknamed the “Ball Method”. People who had previously been banished from society due to their disease could now safely return. Though Ball is now rightly known for her discoveries, this was not always the case. After her death Dr. Arthur Dean continued her research and claimed what she had previously accomplished as his own. Ball was stripped of her discovery until six years after her death when the assistant surgeon at Kalihi hospital who helped her with her research published a paper giving her the credit that she had been denied. Alice Ball has been recognized in many ways since her discoveries were known to the public. She is truly a hero, as she created a cure that saved lives and changed a disease that caused people to be outcasts to return back into society. To pay homage to the revolutionary discovery Alice Ball made, Miss. Lottino’s class used colorful strips of paper to represent an injection and cut out a large paper syringe. 


The submission from room 104 included the quote, “Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” This inspiring quote was said by Martin Luther King Jr., and was depicted around his figure, in the next door display. King was the leader of the civil rights movement in America and is a figure monst know. Though we have all studied aspects of him and his work in history class, his contributions and leadership to the civil rights movement never get old. His thoughts on education are something additional to take away from this door display. At school, it can be easy to get caught up in a sea of homework and studying. Students may forget about the true reason they are at school and can view their never ending to-do list with a look of dread, especially in these winter months. This quote is a positive reminder that the skills we learn in school are giving us knowledge as well as the experiences that shape our character. Martin Luther King Jr. was a lifelong learner and that can add to the long list of accomplishments we celebrate him for today. 


Mrs. Anderson’s class showcased Dorothy Vaughan. The door is designed with a portrait of Vaughan in one corner with her name and a spaceship in the background. Dorothy Vaughan may be known to most from the movie Hidden Figures, where she was one of the three main characters who worked at NASA. Vaughan left her position as a math teacher to work for a temporary war job and later worked for NASA when they were required to diversify. However, “colored” mathematicians were separated from their white counterparts. Vaughan overcame discrimination and was NACA’s (National Advisory Committee for Aesonautics) first Black suprivisor. Vaughan headed the West Computing division for nearly a decade and supported the women under her supervision with a fierce passion. Vaughan also became an expert FORTRAN programer, a skill she taught herself and her coworkers after NACA installed the first digital computers to the center. Vaughan’s ability to understand this complex skill and teach it to others without any guidance was not only astounding but practical. This allowed her and her coworkers to be able to adjust to the transition to using these digital computers and to ultimately save their jobs. Though she was not able to climb fully to her aspirations due to discrimination, Dorothy Vaughan was an extraordinary mathematician. Her work was integral to NASA’s work during the Space Race and paved the way for other African-Americans after her. NASA now has an African-American director and deputy directory, however there is still more work to be done for diversity and inclusion. Dorothy Vaughn is an inspiring and heroic figure and a perfect choice to display in a math classroom. 


For the last door within the contest, Mrs. Hill was able to share some insights on her classes’ entry, its inspiration and design. Mrs. Hill, whose class door was titled Journey to Equality, shared “My students had an excellent time participating in our last door decorating contest, and the theme tied in perfectly with our introduction to this month’s ELA unit, Journey to Equality.” Mrs. Hill said that she chose the design to “keep things simple and meaningful for my Life Skills special education students.” Hill continued while previewing the unit, the class had covered four Black History Month heroes. Each student was then to select their own Black History Month heroes to display on their door as well as the four covered in class. Mrs. Hill stated that, “My students have articulated pride and joy from this project. They love seeing their Black History Month heroes on their classroom door every day. The activity provided meaningful connections to their lives.” 


To sum up this contest, Ms. Harper, the sponsor for Black Excellence United, expressed that she particularly was impressed with the artistic qualities of the doors. She shared, “They all were really creative. I think the Dorothy Vaughn door really stood out because of the student’s use of negative space. I also liked how the Alice Ball design used strips of paper in a really unique way.” Harper was also able to give some insight on the idea to host the contest as well as Black Excellence United as a whole. Harper expressed, “Ms. Hanson gave me the idea last February, and I remembered to put it in motion this year. I thought it would be a fun way to bring Black History Month displays in more areas of the building.” As the sponsor of Black Excellence United Ms. Harper shared that the club is always looking for new members and leaders as it is a small club!