Jacqueline McAlmont, a support staff member at Lisha Kill who has been with the district for 20 years, is helping change lives while celebrating black culture. In 2019, she began raising money and gathering supplies for Hopetown Primary School in Guyana. McAlmont saw the school’s need for supplies while visiting.
The effort started small. At the end of June, McAlmont would go through the lost and found items that no one claimed, clean them and ship them to Hopetown.
During the 2019 school year, around the time she started collecting items for the school, McAlmont wore a shirt that reflected being a proud black woman. To her surprise she learned at the end of the day negative comments were made about her shirt.
McAlmont said she was shocked when she heard about the comments. “Despite knowing the true feelings of some people, I wanted other people who look like me to feel comfortable and not be ashamed of the color of their skin. So, I started wearing that shirt every Friday.”
McAlmont then went on to speak with teachers in the building about coming together to create a t-shirt with a positive message they all could wear in solidarity. They thought that celebrating Black history would be the perfect message.
“Black history is American history and it is something everyone could wear and be comfortable with. So every year we wear and sell these t-shirts during February and the money goes to Hopetown Primary,” McAlmont stated.
Alongside the t-shirt sales, McAlmont and fellow Lisha Kill staff members, hold different fundraisers to support Hopetown Primary. This year they had a gift basket raffle to raise money for the shipping costs and held a districtwide lollipop fundraiser.
McAlmont sends money to the Hopetown Primary seamstress who creates the school uniforms for the students. She also buys bookbags and classroom supplies. Last year, McAlmont went to Guyana herself to personally distribute the supplies donated by the Lisha Kill staff. “I wanted to make sure that these supplies were going directly to the children in need,” she said.
To further celebrate black culture, Lisha Kill has themed days in February that people can participate in. There is a day where McAlmont brings in kente cloth head wraps, a textile, made of handwoven cloth, for people to wear. There is also a “Represent Your Culture Day” celebrating all cultures and a ”Celebrate your hair day”.
“I’m here for the kids. I want to teach them and have them look at Miss Jackie and say this is a regular person,” said McAlmont. “ I am normal, I’m friendly, I’m kind, I care about you, we’re all the same. I just dress differently than you.”
McAlmont hopes this movement will catch on districtwide. “There needs to be more conversations around racism because it’s an everyday issue for most Black Americans. We need more education in the classrooms and genuine talks to students when an issue occurs.”
McAlmont remains hopeful for the future. “It is my dream to start a non-profit. Maybe one day we can plan a trip to Guyana and I can bring my Lisha Kill colleagues with me.”