Longfellow Students Learn Compassion, Write Life Lesson

By Wong, Dwayne T. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 30, 1996 | Go to article overview

Longfellow Students Learn Compassion, Write Life Lesson


Wong, Dwayne T., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dwayne T. Wong Daily Herald Staff Writer

A lesson about AIDS taught a group of Longfellow Elementary School students something about themselves.

When a student in Debbie Allbright's fifth-grade class gave a report on AIDS as a part of a teaching unit on family living, Allbright became concerned when she heard the other students laugh.

To ensure they understood the seriousness of the topic, Allbright deviated from the regular curriculum. She had her class study AIDS and how people with the HIV virus have been treated by society.

"It started as a study of AIDS," said Allbright, 30. "They ended up knowing how to treat people with respect."

From that study, the students at the Buffalo Grove school compiled a book of 40 poems and tributes to children and others with AIDS. Many of the tributes were to Ryan White, whose life the class studied.

The story about White, a teenager from Indiana with AIDS, moved many of the students. He died in April 1990 after fighting not only the disease but the ostracism of the communities in which he lived.

Now that you are in heaven You should be happy! No more worries! No more fear!

You have taught us how to Be ourselves! And nothing but us!

An excerpt from a tribute to Ryan White written by Dave Bothwell, 11.

"Even if you have AIDS, you want to be treated with respect," said Elisa Karbin, 11, about the lesson she learned from the study. "Because people aren't going to be here forever. If you don't treat them with respect, you're going to feel guilty when they're gone."

As a part of their studies, the students discussed the ways the virus can be contracted, including through sexual contact.

However, Allbright said, the lesson focused mainly on AIDS transmission through tainted blood transfusions and intravenous drug use.

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