It’s the difficult, uncomfortable conversations that are often most necessary. Summit Academy Community School – Warren teacher William McSuley says this creed led to his decision to focus his sixth-grade Black History Month lessons on slavery.

“I’m passionate about making sure my students learn and understand about slavery and those who fought against it,” says McSuley, adding that he and his students have been directing their readings and discussions on the importance of the Underground Railroad.

“Many of the students were willing to talk about slavery and not afraid to have some tough conversations on the topic,” he says.

McSuley’s research for a related craft project in which to engage his students led to their creation of Freedom Quilts. The sixth graders colored different patches with designs to express the hardships slaves endured. They incorporated the patches into two wall quilts now displayed in the school hallway, which connects the middle school to the elementary side of the building. The busy corridor opens to every student who enters the building, creating a steady stream of quilt viewers.

While the artwork has attracted a multitude of admirers, it also serves as a reminder to McSuley’s students that the world is theirs to shape.

“I want my students to realize there are many ways to change the world,” he says, “and art is one of them.”