Explore Middle School Celebrates Black History Month with Olympian Gail Marquis and Fashion Commentator Audrey Smaltz

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Explore Middle School celebrated Black History on Thursday morning with United State Olympian Gail Marquis and former Ebony Fashion commentator Audrey Smaltz. The ceremony, held at the Community Education and Recreation Center, featured student performances and was attended by Acting Superintendent Amy Lin-Rodriguez, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Councilwoman Denise Ridley.

“As one of the most diverse communities in the entire country, we must give our students the opportunity to embrace and celebrate all cultural backgrounds,” said Acting Superintendent Amy Lin-Rodriguez. “Listening to the stories of Gail Marquis and Audrey Smaltz was an inspiring and motivational experience that will stick with Explore Middle School students for years to come.”

Gail Marquis shared her story of being a player on the first United States Women’s Basketball Team at the 1976 Olympics, where she won a silver medal. She encouraged students to accomplish all of their goals and fight for the successes they wish to achieve.

“Sometimes you have to see things that are not there,” Marquis told students. “You have to dream things that are not there. You have to see the vision. You have to see it and then you step into it. Very often I will tell people close your eyes and put yourself in that space and just visualize yourself in that setting. When you open your eyes, you will be surprised with what you can accomplish.”

As part of the event, sixth grade student Gabriel Marandino passionately recited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have been to the Mountaintop” speech. This week, Gabriel won second place in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Contest in Jersey City. Students also dressed as notable figures and gave black history presentations as guests walked in the door. Eighth grade student Sasha Caines performed the National Anthem, Ayele Hyde, also an eighth grader sang “Too Beautiful for Words,” and the Explore Voices performed a rendition of “Wade in the Water.”

“Black History Month is a time for us to come together and celebrate the accomplishments of the African American community and their contributions to our nation,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. “I was very impressed with our students’ knowledge and appreciation of our country’s rich history and I want to thank the faculty at Explore Middle School for fostering this socially conscious, first rate educational environment.”

Myles Morales, an eighth grade student, read an excerpt from President Barack Obama’s speech marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. He express his excitement of how the entire Explore Middle School community worked to celebrate Black History Month.

“Kids of all different races came together and were part of this program and I think that’s great,” Myles said.

The event closed with musical numbers from the Spirit of Life Ensemble Band and remarks from the Superintendent.