My Voice My Community
“If we want it to work, we’ve gotta make people cry.”

NID projects address problems in students' lives

The story of Katie McGarry's second grade class' project in 2006 illustrates the power of NID's "My Voice" process to change lives. . . . It started when a student in Katie McGarry’s second grade class at Gideon Elementary School, in Strawberry Mansion, confided in the class that his mother’s boyfriend had hit her in the face with a brick.

The children were stunned to silence, then broke into tears. One by one they approached their teacher, who enveloped them in a huge group hug. “I didn’t know what else to do,” says Katie.

From this moment came the seed of an idea that would carry the class through the rest of the year: their Need in Deed project would focus on “fighting.” And to convey their message of conflict resolution, they would make a “movie.”

Enter Need in Deed with their rolodex of resources: a police officer from the 22nd District, an educator with the Pennsylvania Commission on Human Relations and the producer of a (then) fledgling video company, who agreed to work with Ms. McGarry’s class pro bono. 23-year-old Kevin Johnson, a young man paralyzed after an argument with friends erupted into gun violence, agreed to be interviewed by the class as part of the video.

“If we want this movie to work, we’ve gotta make people cry,” observed one student.

The students’ passion, along with that of a 3rd grade class at the school (guided by another Need in Deed teacher), led to the organization of the school’s first ever “Peace Week, which culminated with a school-wide assembly. Their 17-minute video was the centerpiece of the event.

In reflecting on the project at year’s end, one student said he felt he was learning how to control his temptation to fight: “I look at my mom’s picture. I stop and pause and picture what could happen. I stop and think about it first.”