When world events and breaking news make the slide into cynicism so easy, how do you hang on to hope? For Sherry Hankinson, a language arts teacher at National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School, it’s simple: put your hope in the hands of Akron eighth graders.
For one assignment, Hankinson asked her students what they could do to change the world.
Noah Smith wrote, “I can change the world if I make sure that others can change the world too,” on a bright pink note card that later caught the eye of ArtsNow executive director Nicole Mullet who shared a photo of it online where the author’s collaborative spirit connected with some of the Akrongentsia.
Sherry and a few other teachers at STEM were inspired to do the assignment after history teacher Ellen Beldean showed them a video on YouTube titled, “Why I Think the World Should End” by Prince Ea.
“That was the first thing that popped in my mind,” Noah says. “I think it’s just cool to be that person who people can depend on.”
Helping others isn’t new to Noah. He volunteers on a monthly basis at the Akron Art Museum, his favorite place in downtown Akron. His favorite piece at the museum is “Man Eating Tree” by John Sokol.
Noah likes to draw during his free time.
“I like the expression in [art], how it’s more than just saying something,” he says.
Noah also likes to listen to music, and he has eclectic taste.
“On my playlist, it’ll be like Queen and then maybe AC/DC and then like some musicals.”
Noah has lived in Akron his entire life. He loves the active community here and how there’s always something to do.
“This is my community,” he says. “I see my friends at STEM as a second family because we’re really close with each other.”
At school, Noah tutors Algebra, which is his strongest subject. When he grows up, he says he’d like a career centered around engineering and design. STEM is helping him work towards that goal through experiential learning that is focused on critical thinking and problem solving.
Noah’s leadership skills are especially evident. His school counselor, Sheneeka Rodgers, describes him as a “quiet leader” and the type of student who knows that he “can grow by pouring into others and giving to others.”
His teachers agree.
“He is a natural leader, but he’s not a dominator,” Sherry says. “He’s always one of the first ones to raise his hand. His ideas are on point but they always go up to that next level. He’s an upper level kind of thinker.”
Noah is almost 14 years old, but his maturity and self-awareness matches that of someone much older than him. For example, although many feel that teenagers aren’t keeping up with the news, Noah is keenly aware of what’s happening in the world and he’s not afraid to share his opinion about President Donald Trump.
“I don’t find him to be a very nice person,” he says. “I’m half-Black and half-Korean, so it’s double anger there, especially with the rocket man jokes.”
Noah says that if adults want to change the world, we should be making “more educated decisions.”
After middle school, Noah is hoping to either attend Firestone High School or STEM High School. In the meantime, he continues to help his peers at school.
“I think it’s important to be aware of others because sometimes people get overlooked.”
Noor Hindi is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at The University of Akron.