Lamb receives educational grant, funds Black Student Union


Nyah Phengsitthy

Counselor Korey Lamb receives his grant during a college application session in the library. Harrisonburg Education Foundation awarded Lamb with a letter and balloon in congratulations.

While his proposed idea had a close call for being accepted, guidance counselor Korey Lamb took the risk. With the help of ESL coordinator Laura Feichtinger-McGrath, Lamb developed Mirrors and Windows, a program that would combine his involvement in the Black Student Union (BSU) and his interest in increasing literacy in education.

Each year, the Harrisonburg Education Foundation (HEF) gives educational grants split amongst 50-60 different educators for a proposed project. After applying for the Innovative Educator Grant, Lamb was awarded a part of the 47,000 in grant money for Mirrors and Windows.

With this grant money, BSU will purchase books for students of color in both the elementary and middle schools in the area. From there, Lamb’s plan is for BSU to partner with the elementary and middle schools to have the high school students read with the elementary and middle school students.

“Essentially, I think it’s important for students in general to be literate and [for them] to read. I think reading is such a fundamental skill to be able to understand the world around us. Even reading fiction helps with imagination and conceptualization of who you are as a person. Reading and education are really important to me. I read a lot as a kid and I think as I got older… I realized that it is an important skill for our students to be able to have, specifically for students of color,” Lamb said. “I think a lot of the time our numbers show us that our students of color are coming from homes or places, sometimes, not all of the time, where reading isn’t necessarily…celebrated as much. Some of that is because there’s not a lot of positive representation in books for them to read, and so our grant idea was to purchase books for students in HCPS that they can see themselves in.”

When Lamb received the grant, he initially had no clue what was happening. He was working in the computer lab with students during Virginia College Application Week when a bunch of balloons and people crowded up at the door with a big check to announce Mirrors and Windows’ grant approval.

“I was completely shocked and stunned, and I looked crazy because I kind of forgot about applying for it. They presented a huge check and a bunch of balloons so I was like, ‘What is happening?’ It took me a minute to realize what was going on, but once I realized that they gave us the grant, it was very heartwarming,” Lamb said. “I appreciated the HEF taking that idea and feeling like it was important enough to [fund]. They put their money where their mouth was, really. It really helped me realize that they felt like it was important just as much as we did. That felt really good.”

Lamb’s vision is for Mirrors and Windows to allocate books that inspire students of color. Through BSU, Lamb feels he can make a bondage between the older and younger students, although this is not the first time the BSU has done something like this. For Black History Month last year, Lamb and BSU visited Skyline Middle School to read to kids, except this time, Lamb wants to take that concept to the next level and hopefully make it long-term.

“‘Mirrors’, we want kids to be able to see themselves in the books that they’re reading, being their best selves, well-represented in a positive light, and ‘windows’, looking out into the future and seeing what their possibilities could be. We’re going to purchase some books that highlight kids of color in positive lights, and then we’re going to partner local elementary schools and assign bigs from the Black Student Union to partner with littles in the elementary schools, do some read alouds, go over there, read to them, read with them, encourage them to read and then donate the books to the libraries or to their homes. That is the heart behind it, the hope of establishing stronger connections between the high school, elementary schools and even middle schools and just kind of growing our community as a whole, giving our students an opportunity to give back to their community, but also the kids that are coming up being able to see themselves represented well in beautifully written books that they have access to in their libraries.”

While having different ideas of how to execute Mirrors and Windows, Lamb is still deciding on how he wants to implement this program. Thinking back on his time in high school, Lamb participated in Book Buddies, where once a week he would meet with a first grader to read to them in the morning. Lamb draws inspiration from being involved in that, but is still in the process of figuring out what will work for everyone.

“I am working on contacting the area elementary schools in figuring out a time that we can come in. I’m also going to work with the Black Student Union to see the best way to implement this. Is this something we want to do as a one time thing and make it like a really big event or do we want to create a partnership, long-term where we’re doing some sort of mentorship role?… I could see it working in [the Book Buddies] way, but I could also see it as a one time thing or a certain time of year that we go do it. We are going to look at purchasing books really soon so that we can prepare ourselves for whatever implementation we’ll do. I’ll get the feedback from the students, as well as the area elementary schools and principals and librarians to see the best way it can be implemented in their schools.”

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