SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - In 2008, English was mandated as the official language in Rwanda, however they had very little supportive material. Rwanda’s Kabwende Elementary School had zero books. The Rwanda National Library has only about 10,000 books.

Recently, a "Books and Beyond Project" was founded by Nancy Uslan, a resident of Cedar Grove, whereby students from Indiana University work together with students from Newark, New Jersey’s TEAM Charter School to create a critical thinking/storybook, "The World Is Our Home." In addition to working on the newest (sixth) volume of the book this past winter, the Newark students were introduced to another project by Nancy Uslan i.e. a literacy tile wall, which will be installed this summer as a permanent picture book on a large wall at the Kabwende School in Rwanda.

The Grant School Student Council President, Brody Donovan proposed that this literacy tile wall project, titled "Walls That Unite" by founder, Diana Polack be adopted by the Grant School Student Council this year. Polack, the founder of ‘Walls That Unite’ partnered with Nancy Uslan and her ‘Books and Beyond Project’, facilitating her first global initiative last summer in Nepal. This exciting project was accepted by Grant School Principal, Mrs. Ellen Decker-Lorys. Along with Mrs. Decker-Lorys, the Acting Assistant Principal, Mr. John Orfan, Student Council Teacher Supervisors, Mrs. Megan Basile and Mrs. Julie Flasser, Brody Donovan, the Executive Student Council Board and the Student Council Members worked together to facilitate the project, which will create a beautiful ‘artistic literacy wall’ for this elementary school in Rwanda. Colorful picture tiles will be shared with the students of the Kabwende School from the 5th/ 6th grade students of Grant School in South Plainfield, NJ. The artistic educational dialogue between Jennifer Gil, the art teacher at Grant School and the students was invaluable in establishing a creative mindset within each student. It set the stage, as the students worked with their Student Council Supervisors, Mrs. Basile and Mrs. Flasser to create the beautiful square images. The students’ artwork will be digitally transposed onto tiles that will be cemented to the walls at the Kabwende School for future generations to enjoy.

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The Student Council reached out to the South Plainfield Elks Organization for support with their fundraising efforts for the ‘Picture Book Tile Wall Project’ and are extremely thankful to Sharon & Bill Reuter and the entire Elks membership for the generous sponsorship, which they received toward this international endeavor.

Pictures of the literacy tile wall in Rwanda will be sent back to Grant School with photos of the children at the Kabwende School. Grant School students will see their artwork permanently embedded into a school wall in Rwanda and their hard work turned into a reality. This project has helped the students to realize that making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, even on the other side of the world is so rewarding!

Ms. Polack plans on bringing 500 tiles to Rwanda from schools around the metropolitan area. It is a wonderful project because it will provide every student with a sense of self-worth and an understanding of the part they can play in our world as global citizens.