Making a Difference Through Art at Hoboken Charter Upper School

Jess Estrada's picture
Posted by Jess Estrada on
Mon, 05/18/2015

We love hearing from our Students Rebuild Challenge Teams! Today we're pleased to share this blog from Mira Septimus, teacher at The Hoboken Charter Upper School who rallied her students to participate in the Students Rebuild Literacy Challenge.

Want to share your story? Contact us with your thoughts and photos!


"The Hoboken Charter Upper School stands on four pillars, academic, art, civic and personal growth. Each of these keystones guides teachers in the autonomous development of curriculum to educate and empower students as global citizens.

While service learning and art may seem like isolated programs, they are both well-integrated into the curricula. Through their high school career, students learn art is a form of inter-disciplinary communication, and students are empowered to use their voices through various mediums to embrace the four pillars. In the beginning of the year in art class, all students are introduced to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, discussing basic human rights, definition, components, application to students’ lives and relevancy to global issues.

Our students attended the New England PeaceJam Conference in 2014 and met Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias. Over the course of the weekend event, they learned the current list of countries that still do not have access to clean water.  Sophomore, Emily and juniors, Mariam and Romanda (pictured in the video with Oscar Arias) participated in a bead making project of recyclable materials which converted into a clean water fund that was distributed to people in Tanzania. They brought this project back to our classroom and by the end students created over 500 beads, supplying 25 individuals with clean water. The students were excited and motivated to use their art in raising awareness about human rights issues.

I realized then that in order for service to be meaningful and sustainable, it had to be fully integrated into the curriculum. Classroom discussions shifted to include topics such as hunger, abuse, clean water and cruel punishment. Students then studied and looked at numerous artists and artwork that reflected on social, environmental and global issues.

Students began to search how they could represent concepts of human rights into their work. This year Students Rebuild initiated the Literacy Challenge. We invited our lower elementary students to join. Our students discussed the millions of children globally who cannot read and taught their younger partners about the gravity of the situation. Their excitement was contagious and together they created over 800 bookmarks, each of which was matched with one dollar to donate to children around the world!

It can be very overwhelming at times, with so many global issues to know where to start. With all of the resources supplied by Students Rebuild, our students were able to take something they were passionate about, and have a positive and productive way to make a difference."


The Students Rebuild Literacy Challenge, in partnership with Save the Children and Global Nomads Group, will help thousands of children in disadvantaged communities become successful life-long readers and learners. The Bezos Family Foundation, through Students Rebuild, will match each bookmark you make and mail in with $1—up to $300,000—for Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program in Mali, Nepal and Peru. The more bookmarks you send, the more children we’ll reach!