POCOMOKE–The Maryland State Education Association honored a local principal with a human and civil rights award for her efforts to support student voices.
The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) recently presented Pocomoke High School Principal Jenifer Rayne with the MSEA Human and Civil Rights Award. The honor, which was awarded at the MSEA’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Racial Social Justice Summit in Baltimore, is in recognition of Rayne’s support of Speak Up, a student club at Pocomoke High School. The MSEA Human and Civil Rights Award is given to educators who contribute significantly in the area of human and civil rights in the classroom or the overall school culture.
“It was such an honor,” Rayne said. “Those who have suffered injustices are much more deserving of this but I will proudly advocate for justice and human rights whenever I can because I’m a public school principal. I have to advocate for all students, not just some.”
Rayne said the Speak Up group was launched her first year as principal at Pocomoke High School. She was looking for ways to make sure students voices were being heard when a senior expressed interest in leading a group to celebrate diversity. They decided the new group, Speak Up, would focus on elevating student voices and would be open to anyone interested in making the school a better place for everyone.
“It’s important for every student to have a sense of belonging,” Rayne said.
In recent years the club has grown from just five students when it started to 25 students. The club, which explores history and culture of all marginalized populations, has done murals, helped with Black History Month activities and even developed professional development opportunities for educators. Some of the students also participated in a student panel on how to increase student belonging at a recent MSEA conference.
Students who were seniors in Speak Up last year nominated Rayne for the human and civil rights award, a fact she wasn’t aware of until she arrived in Baltimore to accept the award.
“They’re a wonderful group of students,” she said.