An eight-grader at Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill is angry about how little his teachers get paid for the hard work they do, so he decided to help out by selling some homemade bracelets supporting their cause.
On Friday, 13-year-old Jonah Perrin dropped off a gift to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA.
“I’d learned that my teachers had dipped into their own wallets to pay for school supplies that were helping us learn,” says Jonah Perrin. “Some of my teachers commute 45 minutes – in an area like this, in Chapel Hill. It’s not like it’s New York, or even Raleigh or Charlotte – because they don’t have enough money to live anywhere closer, because it’s such an expensive area. And that just ticked me off.”
Jonah recalls learning those sad facts about the pay situation for some of his favorites teachers during a conversation he had last fall, while he was on his way home to Southern Village from school one day.
So he decided to do something about it. He got involved with the organization Pay Our Teachers First.
He started wearing the group’s signature red T-shirt on Wednesday – “Red for Ed Wednesday.” He attended Moral Monday rallies.
In April, he was one of the speakers at a packed teacher pay forum at Culbreth that included four guests from the North Carolina General Assembly.
Jonah’s basic message, then and now is this:
“Teachers are our heroes, and our society, in Raleigh, in D.C., and even back home at the dinner table, teachers are not well-enough-respected,” he says. “And that’s what we need to change.”
And he raised money by selling wristbands he made with the help of his nine-year-old brother Daniel, using Daniel’s Rainbow Loom kit. The wristbands sold for $10 apiece.
On Friday, Jonah donated the proceeds to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA Council. He says it wasn’t much of a ceremony – he simply dropped off $720 in an envelope, placed inside a box.
Later that day, PTA Council President Jeff Hall expressed his gratitude.
“We live in a pretty amazing community with some really, really special kids who have stepped up in pretty remarkable ways,” says Hall. “In a dark time when sometimes, it seems like the adults don’t know what they’re doing, the kids show the way.”
Hall also had praise for other student activists in the area who sold bumper stickers on behalf of Pay Our Teachers First. And he was struck by one very recent show of student support in Raleigh:
“…[T]he Carrboro High School Students who went to the state legislature with signs for each state, saying, ‘I don’t want my teacher to leave for Connecticut or Texas, or Michigan, because they pay their teachers more.’ And they did that for all 45 states that pay more than we pay here in North Carolina.”
Hall urges anyone who’s concerned about the issue of teacher pay in North Carolina to show up in Raleigh this coming Monday, when the main theme of the evening’s Moral Monday rally will be education.