Pittsfield students would normally have the day off on a federal holiday; however, President Joe Biden just signed legislation declaring Juneteenth (June 19) a federal holiday on Thursday.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., marking when the last slaves learned they were free on June 19, 1865. Union soldiers brought the news of the Confederate surrender two months earlier to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas.

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Although students will have the day off next year if the school year goes that late into June, students at Pittsfield High School took the day and decided to reflect on and learn more about Juneteenth.

Slater caught up with interim PHS Principal Maggie Harrington-Esko about what the students did on Friday.

"We started the day by having every student partake in a brief history lesson about Juneteenth, the reason for the celebration, and the history behind the celebration. Throughout the day, students were in the gym participating in what we called the 'life race', it's set up like a privileged walk", said Harrington-Esko. "Everybody starts in the same place and then you take steps forward or backward based upon your life experiences. For example, students who had a disability would take two steps backward, and students who never had to wonder where their next meal was coming from would take two steps forward. It's a great visual of the challenges kids may experience throughout life then we have the conversation around if this is a life race, we don't always start in the same place, but we have the same end goal and how do we support each other to get to the finish line. It was very powerful. The kids had a lot to say about it, we did some reflection time afterward, the kids did a great job with that."

Harrington-Esko also mentioned that in the front and back of PHS, students participated in some art projects. Chalk art, hope flags, beads, bracelets, and hopes and wishes for a better future all were included in visual art displays.

"It was a really great day, the kids did a great job, we got a lot of positive feedback from the students", said Harrington-Esko.

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