Students "Follow Chester" to learn lessons from visiting author

A former USN parent, student, and alumnus returned to 2000 Edgehill to teach students important life skills through a biography of an African-American doctor who attended Harvard University.
By Juanita I.C. Traughber, Communications Director

During Assembly this week, Lower Schoolers heard from former USN parent and author Gloria Respress-Churchwell, who presented themes from her recently released children's book "Follow Chester!: A college football team that fights racism and makes history."

The biography follows the journey of Harvard College student Chester Pierce, who was the first African-American college football player to play in the segregated south in 1947. He also earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School in 1952. The book focuses on the courage and confidence it took from Chester and his teammates to stand up to adversity in the Jim Crow south

During the 30-minute Assembly, Repress-Churchwell explained to students the meanings of the book's themes:
  • microaggressions: a term coined by Pierce, which he defined in 1970 as "the everyday insults and dismissals that people of color endure in the United States."
  • allies in the experience: helping your friend, joining forces
  • empathy: understanding, compassion, putting yourself in someone else's shoes
  • civility: maintaining composure, to be respectful of others
  • small acts of kindness: doing what is write, helping others
She challenged Lower Schoolers to support and inspire their classmates by doing the "Chester Challenge" and displaying kindness, empathy, and civility as well as being allies.

Her daughter and former USN student Alexandria Churchwell and alumnus Bryard Huggins ’13 shared songs written to accompany the book. They briefly taught students how they compose lyrics and music by writing words and selecting the major or minor key, tempo, melody, instruments. Click here to watch their sing-along with Lower Schoolers.

The trio showed a deeper look at the book, its themes, and music composition to second, third, and fourth graders during breakout sessions in the Gordon Multipurpose Room later in the morning. Churchwell and Huggins also shared snippets from "Savannah's World," a five-episode scripted musical podcast they wrote while living on opposite sides of the country.

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University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.