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Students read "Hidden Figures," will meet author





CMSD high school students have been reading the bestselling book “Hidden Figures” in anticipation of seeing the author, Margot Lee Shetterly, on Friday, Sept. 8.

“Hidden Figures” brought to the fore the real-life story of three African-American women and NASA mathematicians whose calculations allowed America to send astronaut John Glenn on his historic space flight in 1962.

Shetterly’s book, which served as the basis for a hit movie, won the 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Award for nonfiction. The program, which recognizes books that contribute to the understanding of racism and appreciation for diversity, will honor the author Thursday in an annual ceremony at the State Theater in Playhouse Square.

The awards program, administered by the Cleveland Foundation, supplied copies of “Hidden Figures” to students at CMSD’s Whitney M. Young Leadership Academy, New Tech East, Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, Campus International, Facing History New Tech, MC²STEM, Glenville and the John Marshall Campus. Pamela Donaldson, from the Cleveland office of Facing History and Ourselves, helped to recruit the schools and prepared curriculum guides.

Anisfield-Wolf also arranged for the students to hear from Shetterly at 10 a.m. the next day at Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium. She and three District students will discuss deeper questions raised by the book, said Anisfield-Wolf Manager Karen Long.

Long said she is seeking to turn the awards program into “more of a year-round asset for the community” and help literature that touches on race and equity “find its way into the groundwater of Cleveland.”

“For that, there’s no place better than the schools,” she said. “There’s some rich intersections, especially with high school students.”

Whitney M. Young senior Darell Cannon will participate in the discussion with Shetterly. He was mulling conversation options.

“I want to know the author’s passions,” said Darell, a Mock Trial competitor who is interested in pursuing corporate law. “Is she interested in space engineering or does she just love history? Based on the book, you could go either way.”

At Campus International, a new high school that opened with ninth-graders, teachers collaborated to use the book in English, science and U.S. history classes. The school follows the International Baccalaureate model, which includes cross-disciplinary study.

“We thought this would be an excellent way to kick off the first year of the school,” English teacher Charles Ellenbogen said.

Ellenbogen is using “Hidden Figures” to encourage independent reading. He said the school also set up an online forum where students can discuss the work.

Science and design teacher John Dutton said he will have students calculate and predict the path of a projectile first with a calculator, then, as the women did, with pen or pencil. History teacher Deliana Soto will use the content to supplement her lessons on Jim Crow laws and segregation.

The CSU program will also feature a Cuyahoga Community College-sponsored dance troupe, made up mostly of Cleveland School of the Arts students, performing original choreography based on “Hidden Figures.”

Zephaniah Galloway, who graduated this year from CMSD’s Cleveland Early College High School, will read an essay that won the top prize of $40,000 in scholarship money from the annual Stop the Hate competition sponsored by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

 Zephaniah’s essay delved into the challenges of growing up as a black girl who didn't fit into “well-known stereotypes about what it meant to be black.” She wrote about the journey that led her to embrace herself as she is.