Dear Katherine Dunham by Teriesa Sayra Asgar

Spring 2015

Dear Katherine Dunham,

Hello, my name is Teriesa Asgar. I am ten years old and I go to a school named PS155Q. I will graduate in June from the fifth grade. I attend a Saturday program called the RICH program. The RICH program (Reach for Success) in my opinion is really fun. I say this because I get to work with some of the new students and I also get to work with some of the kids in my regular class. I have been learning a lot of things like the RICH principles. The RICH principles are I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of the classmates and others, I matter and, I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. My favorite RICH principle is I am responsible for my behavior; I like this principle because it makes everyone a leader instead of a follower.

Mrs. Dunham my favorite hobby is playing Minecraft on my computer. You might not know what Minecraft is so let me explain. There are four modes that you can be in. Survival is when you have to gather the resources you need to survive. Creative is when you have all the materials you need to build and play with your friends and family. Hardcore is sort of like survival but if you die you cannot respawn and in survival you can respawn. Adventure is when you have to do the same thing like survival but you have to keep everything in your inventory. Adults like you Ms. Dunham might think that children just waste their time on the computer, but if you see what the children can do on Minecraft then you will probably be amazed. So this is the thing that I do on my free time besides reading and doing homework.

Mrs. Dunham, the reason that I chose you is because you love to dance and I like to dance. Also I would like to have the jobs that you had. I like dancing because when I have a tough time in school I like to dance it out. But before I can do all the things that you did I need to start doing a little more training and study the other type of dances. In my school, my class and I are having some ballroom dance classes like Rumba and Swing. My favorite dance is Swing because it is so energetic. I wish I could have known your favorite dance. I am pretty sure that whatever dance you liked it must have been really fun to learn.

There are many different ways that you can use the 4 RICH principles in life and in school. I have used all the principles before, but I have not used all of them in the same week. I will explain to you some of the ways that I used some of the principles in my life. This is one way I used I will be responsible for my behavior. My mom was not feeling well and she had a lot of work to do. I felt bad for her and since I had nothing to do, I helped her out and it only took us about one hour. After we finished, my mom and I went to have some ice cream while we watched television.

This is one way that I used I matter. A kid in my class was throwing an eraser around to another student. One time the eraser dropped right in front of me. The kids next to me were telling me to give it to back, but instead of doing what they told me, I gave it to the teacher.

This is one way that I used I will be considerate of my classmates and others. My dad had to clean the yard and it was really messy, so instead of sitting around and watching television I went to go help him out.

This is one way I used I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. I was having a hard time on the ELA test so I remembered one of the RICH principles and it was named RAPS and I really felt confident on my response after I used the principle. So this is how I use the RICH principles in my life.

I believe the RICH principle that you as my chosen elder used was I matter. I say that because with all the things that you accomplished you had to believe in yourself, and you had to know that you matter. For example, you created the Katherine Dunham Dance Academy. I think that you knew that you would have to deal with a lot of students. So you knew that you mattered and you knew that you could accomplish anything. So this is the RICH principle that as my elder I believe you used to become successful.

Mrs. Katherine Dunham, you have inspired me for not only one reason, but for two reasons. One reason that you inspire me is because you wanted to be a dancer so you believed in yourself and you became a wonderful dancer. Another reason that you inspired me is because you believed that you could accomplish anything and that is exactly what you did. For example you created Kathrine Dunham dance academy and you taught a lot of kids to dance perfectly. So this is why you have inspired me Ms. Dunham.


Teriesa Sayra Asgar
May 2015

Dear Katherine Johnson by Nadia Adram

Spring 2017

Dear Ms. Katherine Johnson,

Hi my name is Nadia Adram and I go to Ronald H. Brown P.S. 155Q. I am 10 years old and I am going to middle school in September (The same month as my birthday!). I just started the RICH program or the Reach for Success program. You are probably really confused about what this is. Well, the RICH program is about helping kids respect all cultures. This program is based off of four principles. The principles are “I matter,” “I am responsible for my behavior,” “I am considerate of my classmates and others,” and finally “I use thinking strategies for school and life success.” This program follows these 4 principles, and helps kids respect others.

My family came to America from Guyana, a small country in South America. It was very hard for them to get here. I’ve never been to Guyana but my mom’s parents visit there a lot on vacation. It was hard for my mom to get here, while my dad and my uncle got here pretty easily. My uncle is my mom’s brother. My parents had to live in a few different houses in a few different states but only bought a house here in New York. A little later after my parents came, my mom’s parents came here easily and just recently my dad’s parents who are just here on a visit. However to get over here you have to get a visa if you are from or live in Guyana.

Ms. Katherine Johnson, you matter to me for many reasons. I am inspired by you because you are a NASA mathematician and math and astrology are some of my favorite subjects. NASA is a company that does astronomy or the study of space. A mathematician is a person who does math. I’m really good at math and right now I’m learning 6th grade math work. Some of it is a little tricky but because I already knew some things in the work it was pretty easy for me. I was and am still fascinated by the wonders of space. I know about all of the planets in our solar system and their moons.

Also you matter to me because I am going to be going to middle school next year and I got into a really strict but good school. It is Scholars Academy. I went to an interview, and a few weeks later I got a letter saying I was accepted. That school is really hard to get into but I did it with the encouragement from my teachers. You inspire me to do well in math and astronomy because my dream career needs math, and it is fun to explore the stars of our universe. Also, when I get good grades on my report card, the grades go to my records and the records go to Scholars Academy. When they do, I hope the good grades will impress them. Then I will be able to make my family proud.

The Reach for Success program is teaching me to respect others’ culture in many ways. The principle “I matter” helps me stay confident and leaves me with that “can do” attitude.“I use thinking strategies for school and life success” helps me remember that I have strategies to help me through tough times. “I am responsible for my behavior” tells me that it is wrong to do certain things and finally “I am considerate for my behavior” tells me that I shouldn’t judge other people without actually knowing them. This is exactly what the RICH program is all about so I am really proud that I am learning and using all these principles so I could uphold the RICH sprite.

The RICH program is teaching me to respect my culture because sometimes we can’t understand when our holidays for our religion are because America celebrates the holiday the same day as India while Guyana celebrates it the day after. Also there’s this holiday where I have to fast for nine days. Fasting is when I can not eat chicken, fish, and eggs. I don’t like that holiday at all but because of RICH, I can use the principle “I use thinking strategies for school and life success” and I can eat other foods I like such as mac and cheese.

Ms. Johnson you inspire me because I will study astronomy when I grow up even though it will have nothing to do with my dream career, and I am already really good at math. If I were to make this world a place where everyone is respected, I would start with a meeting in the park for every neighborhood and let them talk things through, and I would keep doing that until everyone become friends. Ms. Johnson, according to me you used the principle “I matter” because you had many tough times in your life and i’m pretty sure it was hard to find out about things you never knew at all. I would like to thank you for inspiring me and I am sure you’re inspiring other people too. Thank you!

Nadia Adram

Dear Katherine Johnson by Nathaly Rodriguez

Spring 2017

Dear Katherine Johnson,

Hello! My name is Nathaly Rodriguez, and I go to Ronald H. Brown PS.155Q, I’m currently 11 years old and in the 5th grade. I attend this Saturday program known as the Reach for Success Program. The Reach for Success Program has been a big influence in my life because of its 4 RICH principles: I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of my classmates and others, and last but not least I use thinking strategies for school and life success.

My family came to America from a small country located in South America called El Salvador. My father came here to America at the age of 18 because of the war that was going on. He had a very difficult life after his first wife abandoned him and her two children Omar and Jancarlos. My father had no choice but to go back to El Salvador, leaving his two children behind with his mother and father. While my dad was there, he was in luck because that’s where he found true love.

Katherine Johnson’s story matters because it helps inspire others for what they believe in. For instance, you can never stop fighting for what’s right. It may take longer than you expected to reach your goal, but it’s still worth it at the end. In fact, throughout history it took a while to get what they want. For example, you didn’t allow people to tell you what women of color can and can’t do. But you proved them wrong with all your fascinating accomplishments. Even now, your legacy still lives and will never die.

As I mentioned before, I attend a Saturday program known as The Reach For Success program and it helps scholars learn more about how to have a goal and how to achieve it. As well as how to do better in school because of its four RICH principles I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of my classmates and others, and last but not least I use thinking strategies for school and life success. These RICH principles are incredibly helpful because they will guide you all throughout life.

I for one believe that all throughout your life you used the RICH principle I matter because it helped you keep in mind that you can do anything you want and no one can tell you otherwise. For example, if you want to become a mathematician no one can tell you that you can’t do that. America is a free country where people can come along way which was exactly what you did. You inspired many people back then as well as you did now.

As you can see, you helped teach others to be a leader and not a follower and to speak up for what’s right, I’d like to thank you Katherine Johnson for teaching me so much more about what it is to be loyal. You helped inspire people all around the globe in your time and I hope your legacy is still living on inspiring others.

Yours Truly,
Nathaly Rodriguez

Dear Katherine Johnson by Parbatti Boodhoo

Spring 2017

Dear Katherine Johnson,

Hello! My name is Parbatti Boodhoo and I go to Ronald H. Brown School PS.155Q. I’m currently 11 years old and in the 5th grade. I currently attend a wonderful program called the Reach for Success Program that is held on Saturdays. The Reach for Success Program has changed my life by making me more confident and getting better grades in school through the 4 principles I Matter, I am Responsible for my Behavior, I am Considerate of my classmates and others, and last but not least I use Thinking Strategies for School Success.

My ancestors like my great grandparents came from India and then Guyana, which was where I was born. My parents came from Guyana to America. It was very hard for my dad because he was the first from my family to come here and he had a brain tumor. So that meant he couldn’t see for the whole flight. Then, after a year or so my dad came back and he was fine, but to this day he still has it. When I turned 3, my mom and I came to America.

Mrs. Katherine Johnson your story matters so much because it inspires me to know that girls can do as much as boys can. For example, in science or math you mostly see men who made a lot of discoveries, but your story reminds me that girls can do the same thing and beyond. Also, I love that you have inspired me and others that you can do anything that you put your mind to.

The Reach for Success program is training me to respect myself because we have RICH principles such as I Matter that helps me believe in myself. The Reach for Success program is training me to respect other cultures because when we use the RICH principles like I Matter and I am Responsible for my Behavior it shows me that everyone is equal and we should respect one another.

The RICH principles has helped me become a leader in school because they have helped me become more calm about certain things. For example, when I get mad, the RICH principles have helped me calm down and take a breath and not overreact. The RICH principles have changed my life for the better and I am glad I learned about them.

Mrs. Katherine Johnson you have inspired me about equality between different races and gender and cultures. You have showed me that all races and cultures and/or different inequalities should be treated the same. Thank you Mrs. Katherine Johnson for the inspiring words.

Parbatti Boodhoo

Dear Katherine Johnson by Sage Rajkumar

Spring 2017

Dear Katherine Johnson,

Hi! My name is Sage Rajkumar, and I go to Ronald H. Brown PS 155 Q. I am 10 years old, and I am getting ready to go to middle school. I have just started the RICH organization’s program called the Reach for Success Program. I am one hundred percent certain that you don’t know what this program means. Well it’s about helping you to respect yourself and others, and to help you in school using the four principles listed: I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate for my classmates, and last but not least, I use thinking strategies for school and life success. This program has been helping me.

I wonder why Dr. Dawson chose to write about you. Well there are many reasons why I think she picked you from my knowledge. Well I know you were born in 1918. You also showed a real huge passion for math as well. We also know that you graduated high school at the age of fourteen and started college at age fifteen. You had graduated at age 18. At that time you wanted to become a researcher mathematician which was a blocked path for many African Americans including you because of racism and the negativity. Well however, you didn’t care and you fought those obstacles away which you have conquered, you kept on fighting to get that job no matter what was in your way. You have given me the passion towards fighting for my rights and can become anything I want. Many people need you as an example of life because you worked hard, and you showed many people including me that with hard work you can accomplish anything you want.

As you know I am Sage Rajkumar. I had started this program at York College about a year ago and came every Saturday. When I started this program, I was really shy and I had to improve on my math and writing. I was a level three student at both subjects. After the first semester, I had improved tremendously, getting a level four on both subjects. The RICH program helped me accomplish this by making me remembering these principles that I use in everyday life. I matter is the most important one that I use because it makes me remember to be confident and to make me know that I can do it and I am capable of doing that. I come from a culture called Hinduism, and that has many celebrations to respect the lord. I am not familiar with all the Gods and what they symbolize. My favorite subject is writing because it makes us express our feelings and makes you elaborate on your ideas. But my hobby is that I love playing on my PlayStation and coding on my tablet. My favorite color is blue because it reminds me of the black and summer sky. My favorite animal is a polar bear because it looks appealing. My favorite movie is Tyler Perry Madea Goes to Jail because of the suspense and the actions of what the characters do. My favorite season is winter because I cuddle up in my bed and because of Christmas. Last but not least, my favorite book series is Harry Potter. This is all about me.

My mom is from Trinidad. She came here by plane as an immigrant. An immigrant is a person that comes from another country. She came here because her parents thought that she had many opportunities and would live a better life. Well her parents were right because now my mom is a babysitter in the city and goes to college. My dad is from Guyana. He had moved to Miami at the age of ten with his dad. Then after 8 years, his mom went to American and so did he. So as you can see my parents are from the Caribbean which makes me a Caribbean child or boy.

There are many ways of how the RICH program is helping me respect my culture and others. The RICH principle “I matter” helps me stay confident and makes me think that I can do anything that I am apart of anything and I am a big part of the word. The other principle that I mainly use to respect other cultures is “I am responsible for my behavior”. This helps me know that I shouldn’t make fun of people’s religion and where they came from because I pretend how I would feel if I was getting made fun of. So I think the RICH program is being a big influence on me and makes me change my actions from how I was before.

There are many ways the RICH program is teaching me how to respect myself. The main principle for this is “I matter”. This principle teaches me to love myself no matter what other people think about me. Many people don’t respect my culture because of our celebration and think that it doesn’t have a purpose, but it does to my culture. Also, I know that I don’t feel left out because those people who disrespect our culture has other traditions that doesn’t seem to make joke of. This is how the RICH program is helping me respect myself.

There are many ways how the RICH program is making me be a leader in school. Many people in my school don’t have any etiquette at all. They’re just bullies who don’t care about anything. They say they would fail and so will I, and they have no confidence and doesn’t believe in anything. They just keep on doing bad and failing. Well another thing that makes me a leader is that people bully others which I do not because they might bully me, but I just ignore them because they’re just jealous! As I would say. Also, I stand up for people who are getting bullied.

Well as you can see there are many ways how you inspired me Mrs. Johnson. You had inspired me because you had taught me that anything is possible if you just put work into it. Many people need you has an example because many people including myself sometimes give up easily but you had never given up to get that job and that gives me confidence to keep on trying, and you will get what you wanted to accomplish. Her job that she wanted to get was a blocked path for many African Americans, but she had kept on fighting to get that job and eventually she did. This gave everyone courage to fight for their rights and make things equal and fair like how we live today.

Sage Rajkumar

Dear Maya Angelou by Chrisann Anderson

Spring 2012

Dear Maya Angelou,

Essay written by Chrisann A.

My name is Chrisann and I am a RICH student. I have been learning about RICH principles and using them in my everyday life. The RICH principle I find most important is “I Matter.” I find that particular RICH principle to be outstanding from all the other RICH principles because “I Matter” can mean a lot of things like always remembering to put me first and believing in myself

I am using “I Matter” in school and at home by keeping a positive attitude in school and showing that I want to achieve great things in life and be successful. At home I am showing that “I Matter” by respecting my parents and also showing that I am thankful to have supportive and awesome parents.

Dr. Angelou you have done a lot of great things in your life. What I admire about you, Dr. Angelou, is that you always practiced self confidence. Growing up, people would say that you would never be anything. Instead you chose not to listen to the side and focused on all the positive things that encouraged you. You chose to use that negative energy to build you up which in turn helped you become the successful woman you are today!

The words I would use to describe you Dr. Angelou are determined, self confident and strong. I think you are a very determined individual and when I was reading your biography it talked about how committed you were to learn how to read. In learning how to read you grew to love going to the library and writing. This experience opened up your mind to a world of imagination. I also think you are self confident because to become a poet you have to believe in your work and believe that you can do it when no one else understands your vision. Having self confidence and belief that you can do anything you put your mind to is so important for me to understand because I someday would like to be very successful just like you!

Dr. Maya Angelou, you have been an inspiration to me because I have learned a lot of life lesson from reading about you. One life lesson I learned was that “It doesn’t matter what color or gender you are because you can be anything want to be.”

I thank you Dr. Angelou for your hard work and continuous effort to opening up peoples’ minds and showing my generation that passion and knowing that you “Matter” opens up a world of endless possibilities.


Chrisaan A.

Dear Ms. Maya Angelou by Kayla Ashanti Grant

Spring 2013

Dear Maya Angelou,

Hello! My name is Kayla Ashanti Grant, but everybody calls me Chubby Cheeko or Kaykay. I am ten years old. I am in the fifth grade and go to the school at P. S. 155 Q. elementary school. My favorite form of writing is poetry. I have been coming to the rich program for the first time for the two semesters. I love coming to the rich program. The rich program helps us be ready for school and even life success. It is helping me to write a lot better in poetry too!

Maya, I chose you because I would love to learn more about your childhood and the ways in life that helped you get through all of your struggles. I also want to know how you felt growing up as a kid not speaking at all after you thought your words killed somebody. That must have been hard not talking for most of your child hood. This sounds like a hard challenge for the people of today because all we want to do is talk.

You are a really remarkable woman who inspires young poets today and every day. You were eventually taken to your grandmother’s house to spend your life with your brother after your mom’s boyfriend’s death. I would also not speak if I thought words from my mouth would kill somebody. I think that is not the way to handle it. You should have had more confidence in yourself. This is what the RICH Program teaches us. This program teaches us four principles. These principles are: I matter, I will be responsible for my behavior, I will be considerate of my classmates and others, and I will use thinking strategies for school and life success.

You were born in 1928. The day was April 4th. You were trained to be a dancer, but in earlier days you decided to be a poet. After being married to your husband you met many celebrities like Alvin Ailey and Ruth Beckford. You are very successful in your work. You are a remarkable woman. In school I use many RICH principles.

One rich principle I use is I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. I use this principle instead of not caring about my school work; I try my best to pass my test with at least a 95%. The principle shows you to put in effort and also study hard to get even better scores, or when I want to do well on the New York State tests.

The second RICH Principle is I will be considerate of my classmates and others. This principle shows you to be generous towards all people. You have to be considerate of others to be considerate towards you. I was considerate when I helped my friend Yaritza when she had gotten a shot and she was in pain. I helped carry her books and more.

The third RICH Principle is I will be responsible for my behavior. This means you have to take action for what you do. This means you have to control your behavior to be a good person instead of being somebody who is negative and rude.

The last principle I want to introduce you to is I matter. This means to have respect towards yourself. When you told the truth of speaking up for yourself, it showed you matter. When you matter you do not care what people say about you or anything. The principle, I matter, is showing you are an independent person like in your poem “phenomenal woman”.

So Maya, as you can see, you are a very remarkable woman with many talents. You are inspiration to all poets around the world. You are a really great poet. Your talent in poetry is really inspiring to me and more youthful poets and older poets as well. You use everyday life in your books and pieces of poetry. You are an inspiration to my writing in school!


Kayla Grant J
May 18, 2013

Dear Norma Miller by Kayla Grant

Spring 2016

Dear Norma Miller,

My name is Kayla Grant. I am 13 years old and I am an 8th grader at JHS 157 Stephen A. Halsey in Rego Park. I attend a program every Saturday called Reach for Success. I have been attending this program for 4 years. This program uses 4 important principles to help us in school and everyday life. These 4 principles are: I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of my classmates and others, and I use thinking strategies for school and life success. These principles have helped me have more confidence in myself over the years. I really enjoy attending this program.

Ms. Miller, I chose to write about you for many different reasons. You have many dancing accomplishments. By the age of 15, you became the youngest member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. You were hospitalized for a while as well, but no matter how much obstacles you faced, you still kept dancing. I’ve been dancing for a while and since I saw all you have accomplished from dancing, made me want to keep dancing. You also have a profession in comedy. Even in the comedy profession, you did very well and never gave up. Everything that came to you had a challenge, but you thought it was really easy.

The Reach for Success program personally has helped me gain confidence in my writing and in school. Before coming to this program I was very shy and didn’t have good grades in writing. But after coming to the program, I am now able to write better, maintain a 90 and above in all of my classes and I gained a lot more confidence, with knowing I matter. I use the Reach for Success principles every day. I am also able to present in front of people with a lot of confidence in my speaking. I use these principles mostly maintain good grades so I can stay on the gold honor roll at my school. I mostly use the principle I use thinking strategies for school and life success, so I can find new ways to study and get good grades on my test and maintain them so I can be successful one day. I also use the principle I matter because I am more confident in my work than before.

Throughout your life you have used many of these RICH principles. But the one that I think you used the most was I matter. I mostly think that you used this RICH principle because at the age of 15, you became the youngest member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and you toured Europe for seven months. After the tour you were ill for a while and were hospitalized, that didn’t stop you. After regaining your strength, you continued to dance with the lindy hoppers. You toured around the nation, Europe, and danced in a motion picture. After your dance career was done you had started to find a spark in comedy. You toured Vietnam as a solo comedy act.

In conclusion, Ms. Miller, I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to never give up. I learned from you that to get to big places you have to have confidence. Just by reading about all of your accomplishments, makes me want to do even better than I’m doing now. Once again I want to thank you for inspiring me to do better and try harder.


Kayla Grant

Dear Ossie Davis by Nija Woods

Spring 2012

Dear Ossie Davis,

Essay written by Nija Woods.

Hello my name is Nija W. and first and foremost I would like to let you know how much I appreciate people like you. Many people forget to praise the wonderful leaders we’ve had throughout our history. The generation today doesn’t acknowledge the fact that if it wasn’t for African Americans like you; we would not be able to overcome the things that happen in the world today. Being in the RICH Program has helped me to thank God for people like you, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and the many other extraordinary African American activists. You all have fought for freedom in a way that no one may have thought you could. You all weren’t physical fighters but mental fighters. You all put the word out that you were somebody and would not allow anyone to discourage or persuade you into not believing that. For these things I would like to thank you…for allowing me to acknowledge the astonishing things you’ve done for my generation.

As a student in the RICH Program I am serious about integrating and utilizing our four RICH Principles in my daily life. These RICH Principles have helped both inside and outside of school, with my attitude and behavior. The RICH Principle that I have been trying to use everyday is “I Matter.” This RICH Principle helps me believe in myself at all times so that I, just like you, can become as successful as you one day, not with fame and money but with pride and dignity.

Another RICH Principle that I have been trying to use daily is “I use Thinking Strategies for School Success.” This RICH Principle helps me to plan ahead for life and school related issues. I always try to use this RICH Principle so that I can keep track of what I need to do and plan ahead to achieve my goals. I also see the ways in which you used the RICH Principle “I use Thinking Strategies for School Success” by planning ahead. Although many people may have tried to put you down, their negativity only made you stronger and allowed you to dream bigger. You took all the bad criticism and turned it into a source of positive influence to help you become the wonderful legend that you are today.

The other RICH Principle that I use is “I am Responsible for my Behavior.” The way I have been using this RICH Principle is by letting the negative influences turn into positive influences. For example, I just like you, have been in a situation in which people may have looked down on me or said some bad things about me. I, also like you, learned to keep a positive mind set and once I always know that I matter, no one can ever make me feel less than what I am. You have used this RICH Principle in so many ways. One major way you have used this RICH Principle that stood out was when you where a little child walking home. As few police officers stopped you, not because you did anything wrong but because they wanted to taunt you. They took you to the police station and poured syrup on top of your head and laughed at you as you walked out. You went home, cleaned yourself up and didn’t bother to try to revolt against them or tell your family because you knew those actions would escalate the situation. Many people in your generation may have reacted the same way you did, however sadly, those in my generation are more quick tempered and always ready to retaliate.

Finally, the other RICH Principle I have been using is “I am Considerate of my Classmates and Others.” Although I have just started realizing how important it is to show others respect I have been working extra hard applying this Principle. I must admit that being in the RICH Program has helped me to use this RICH Principle daily. You have used this Rich Principle all the time whether people treated you with respect or not because you knew that two wrongs don’t make a right; just because people don’t treat you with respect doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat them with respect.

In conclusion, I will like to thank you so much for inspiring me to become a leader and inspiration in my community, just like you! I have learned so many things from you and the most important lesson you have taught me was to kill people with kindness and you will succeed in life even if no one ever believes in you.

Thank you Ossie Davis!!!


Nija Woods.

Dear Mr. Ray Charles, by Jade Marie B.

Spring 2012

Dear Ray Charles,

Essay written by Jade Marie B.

I feel that you are a very inspirational person. You are not only inspirational to upcoming musicians, but also to me because I’m an aspiring actress and there are a lot of obstacles I’m going to face. I could relate to you as a composer facing problems. For example, during rehearsals for a play, while there are several actors lined up for one part it starts to get very competitive. Some actors would try anything just to get the part that you’re up for. I auditioned for a part in a play but another girl also had the same part. While I was practicing my lines she felt less confident in herself because I was doing a good job. She then started spreading rumors about me just to make me feel terrible that I got the same part that she had. The RICH principle, I am responsible for my behavior helped me ignore her and stay focused. While reading about your life and seeing how hard it was for you to overcome obstacles, such as being African American trying to be successful, it was important for you to ignore the negative people who were trying to come in the way of you achieving your dreams. You too Mr. Charles were responsible for your behavior. In spite of all the challenges that you had to face you still became an icon.

Mr. Charles, you also inspire me to never give up no matter what type of situations or struggles I have to face. Another important RICH principle that you used was I matter. You had to focus on trying to make it through life being blind which contains many hardships. You also state that your mother was very hard on you even though you were blind. What caught my attention was when you admitted how your mother would say just because your blind, doesn’t mean you’re stupid. I feel that her telling you that was a very powerful quote to not only blind people but to all people who doubt themselves and feel that just because they have problems in their life, they will never be able to succeed. Your mother Mr. Charles helped always remind you that you mattered.

I strongly feel that you inspire me to always strive to achieve my goals. I read about how you grew up in poverty and you didn’t have a lot of money, but you still made a positive outcome with your life. This helped me remember that whatever I really want in life, I have to work hard for it. Back then, I know it was very hard not being a wealthy person and being an African American man coming from Georgia, trying to pursue your dreams. I can relate to working hard because when I had to audition for the high school I wanted to attend, I had to stand in the rain with hundreds of other talented kids. Still I knew I mattered so I wasn’t discouraged. Learning about your life and struggles Mr. Charles enabled me to apply the RICH principles that I’ve been learning in the RICH program that connect to both of our lives.

Thank you, Mr. Charles for encouraging me to always remember that I matter and to have self respect.


Jade Marie B.
Grade: 8
Age: 14

Dear Mr. Ray Charles by Taj Johnson

Spring 2012

Dear Mr. Ray Charles,

Essay written by Taj Johnson

Hi! MY name is Taj Johnson. I am ten years old and in the fourth grade. I use many of the RICH principles. Every time I have a test, I study for it and try to incorporate all the RICH principles into my study methods. The week of March 3rd, 2008, I took my New York State Math State Exam. I used “Thinking Strategies for School Success” to help me solve the difficult problems on the test and strongly believe that I aced the exam!

I also use the RICH principles at home. One principle I use everyday is “I am Considerate of My Classmates and Others.” At dinner, I always make sure I say a prayer before I eat. I also make sure I do not burp or do any nasty things while other people are eating. The same thing applies for breakfast and lunch. I also use the RICH principle “Thinking Strategies for School Success” to check my little sister’s homework. I try to use strategies to help her get all of her homework correct.

I’ve been reading about you and see you play the piano…just like me! In one of your videos you said that you never give up. That also ties in to the RICH principle “Thinking Strategies for School Success.” I try to find ways not to mess up when I’m playing the piano. Your words really inspire me to never give up! Every time I make a mistake, I start all over until I get the whole thing perfect. Now I know it is not about getting it perfect but it’s rather about doing your best. Also in one of your videos you said that you helped your mother a lot as a child, which ties into the RICH principle, “I am Responsible for my Behavior.” Sometimes I would feel bad for saying “no” to my mother when she really needed my help and after reading/learning about you, I know to say “yes” whenever she calls on me.

Thank you Mr. Ray Charles, for being a visionary…Reading and listening to your visionary pieces encouraged and influenced me in so many ways. I know now that it is not about striving for perfection, but doing my absolute best in everything I participate in.


Taj J.

Dear Toni Morrison by Chrisann Anderson

Spring 2012

Dear Toni Morrison,

Essay written by Chrisann A.

Hi Ms. Morrison, my name is Chrisann Anderson and I am a RICH student. Over the past few years I have been learning about many different National Visionary Leaders. This year I chose to write about you and learn about the obstacles you faced growing up to become the successful women you are today. I can relate to you because as I become older, I am facing a lot of obstacles in my life. I try and express my feelings on paper instead of holding it in and becoming angry, similar to how you felt about racism when you were growing up as a little girl in Alabama, and expressed your thoughts on paper.

Over the years Ms. Morrison you have accomplished many goals. Some of the great accomplishments you have made are becoming the first African American writer to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. In 1977 you won the national book critic award, and went on to publish several books after that. Your books have inspired many people around the world, and are based on strong topics such as racism, segregation and integration. Ms. Morrison you have a very creative imagination, a powerful mind and strong feelings. The RICH principle that best describes you is, I am responsible for my behavior, because you put forth high levels of effort in order to become one of the most successful black authors of our time.

As a rich student, I could inspire others to use each RICH principle in a new way by showing what they all mean to me and how I have been applying them in my everyday life. Each RICH principle means a lot to me. I Matter means to believe in yourself and always show a positive attitude. I am responsible for my behavior means to respect yourself. I am considerate of my classmates means to show team spirit and do unto others as you want others to unto you! I use thinking strategies for school success means to set goals and work hard towards accomplishing them. The RICH principles have helped me to become a better person because I used to have an attitude, but since I’ve been attending the RICH program I’ve transformed my attitude and I’m more confident about myself.

I think the RICH principle that helped you to become successful Ms. Morrison, is I Matter. Even though you faced challenges in your life you did not allow that to hold you down and stop you from pursuing your dreams. The important lesson I have learned from you Ms. Morrison, is that you can’t judge a book by its cover because you can’t say something about someone if you don’t know him or her. By changing your name you took away the opportunity for people to judge you as a Black Women author and allowed them to experience your craft with no bias. In doing this you took the road to success.

Thank you Ms. Morrison for everything and working hard to be the successful women you are today.


Chrisann A.
Grade 6
Age 11

Dear William “Keter” Betts by Dakota Lopez

Spring 2015

Dear William “Keter” Betts,

My name is Dakota Lopez. I go to PS155Q. I am 10 years old and I will be graduating from the fifth grade in June. I would like to tell you about the Reach for Success/ Reach Into Cultural Heights program. There are four main principles that we use. These principals are I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I will be considerate to my classmates and others, and I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. My favorite principle out of these is I matter. I say this because it helps people with knowing that they all affect the world in their own way. I also think that the Reach for Success program helps people feel better about themselves. This program definitely helped me feel better about myself.

I have already told you my name, age, and school; but I also have many hobbies that I like to do. These hobbies include skateboarding, playing video games, and playing my guitar. I do these things whenever I have free time. I like playing my guitar when I have nothing to do. I like playing guitar because I love the feeling of making music myself with a guitar. I also like playing video games for two main reasons. The action and the soundtrack. These things are what make video games fun. I also like watching YouTube videos. However, I like listening to jazz music the most.

There are also certain reasons why I chose you, William Betts, as my elder. I did this because of my hobbies, specifically playing my guitar and listening to jazz music. I have liked doing these things for a very long time. I like listening to music on and other things like sound cloud, an app that lets people around the world upload music for others around the world to hear. I have listened to jazz music since I was 4. I have always liked jazz music and as I grow up I like it more and more. I have never grown out of this and I never will. Many musicians inspired me to play guitar and listen to jazz music.

I listen to many different types of music, and Jazz just happens to be one of my favorite. Some of the different types of music I listen to are Rock and something called Dubstep. It is a type of music that consists of different sounds and not much singing. It is more electronic instruments than anything. I like listening to music a lot because it lets me think, with practice, I can make music like this. Music has always interested me and I believe that I will like music for the rest of my life.

I use the principles I learned in the Reach for Success program during my everyday life. For example, one of the principals is I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. People use this during school to help with tests. We learn to use thinking strategies to help with schoolwork and everyday life. This helped me in many ways during tests like the New York State Exams. The principles learned here actually help in real life.

William Betts, you have helped me in many ways. You inspired me to listen to jazz music. You have helped me learn that jazz is beautiful and that I have a privilege in listening to it. Music is one of my passions and it will always be. You have helped me realize that jazz is something I will love now and forever.


Dakota Lopez
May 2015

Dear William Thomas “Keter” Betts by Justice Williams

Spring 2012

Dear William Thomas “Keter” Betts,

Essay written by Andre C.

Hi, my name is Justice Williams. The reason I chose this person was because he was a jazz bassist. I am a saxophone player so William Betts and I are not really that different. He was born on July 22, 1928 and died on August 6, 2006. He has used many of the RICH principles in his life, without even knowing what a RICH principle is! He has used the RICH principles by staying positive and practicing hard so he could achieve his goals.

One day, William’s mother sent him to the store to get groceries, and on the way there, he saw a marching band. He followed the marching band all the way around town. When he saw the band, it inspired him to play the percussion but when he got home, he was scolded. He told his mother he wanted to be a percussionist. That is how he got into music. When he was a child he was into band music but as he grew up, he got into jazz.

When William grew up, he had to balance his music career and family life. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but he did have a wife and kids. He was just a normal person like you with a special talent that made him very successful.

In high school, William Betts met Milt Hilton and that is how he decided to be a bassist. When he met Milt Hilton, he was inspired to play the bass. Meeting a famous jazz bassist made him want play the bass instead of percussion. He worked very hard to get where he was. He could never stop practicing.

William Betts has inspired me in many ways, even though many of you didn’t know who he was before this report. He has used the RICH principle I matter and I am responsible for my behavior. I would thank him but he isn’t alive anymore. He knows that he lived a full and successful life.

When I grow up, I will probably play in a jazz band just like William Betts. He has told me that I can be anything I want to be even more than other people. Other people tell me I can do anything, William Betts has actually showed me that I can do anything.


Justice W.
4th grade
10 years old

Dear William “Bill’’ Russell by Kevin Bernard Jr.

Spring 2015

Dear William “Bill’’ Russell,

My name is Kevin Bernard Jr., and I am 11 years old. I go to Ronald Brown PS 155 and I’m graduating from the 5th grade. The Reach for Success program is a program where I’m taught how to be a good leader. There are four principles: I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of my classmates and others, and I will use thinking strategies for school and life success. My favorite principle is I matter because I think it can be used to encourage people to try their best on everything.

I have a lot of hobbies. I like playing basketball and watching NBA. I like playing video games. I also like to read books; one of my favorites is Chronicles of Narnia. I think it is very interesting because I like the action and the creatures that the author created. I chose you, William Russell because I like how you play basketball and how you handle problems. You dealt with many barriers and overcame them in a peaceful way.

Another reason why I chose you is because you played my favorite sport which is basketball. You played basketball and made a major impact in the NBA. You are a remarkable person and a very peaceful man. You have made peace between rivalries with other players. You left the NBA in a different way than when you came.

The RICH program helped me in many ways in terms of school. It helped me learn how to handle problems or fights that I have been in by using the 4 RICH principles. For example, there was a fight in school and I used the principle I will be responsible for my behavior by telling a teacher and she handled the problem. The RICH Principles can help me in any situation. That’s why I use the principles daily.

In conclusion, I believe that you have used the principle “I am responsible for my behavior.” You did not get into any fights in basketball. You have inspired me to play basketball. You are a very good person. Thank you.


Kevin Bernard Jr.
May 2015

Dear William “Bill” Russel by Ricardo Headley

Spring 2012

“The King of The Court”

Essay written by Ricardo Headley

Dear William “Bill” Russell,

My name is Ricardo Headley and it is a privilege and an honor to talk to a basketball legend like you. I am a fourteen-year-old teenage boy and I attend the RICH Peer Leadership program.

Mr. Russell, I believe that we share many common features such as our date of birth; when you were my age I had the same facial feature as you; I play the same sport that you played in youth ages (not to call old); you had patience and endurance even though people treated you like you were nothing.

Here at the Rich program I have been learning about 4 main principles that keep me in check and they are: I matter, I am responsible for behavior, I am considerate of others, and I use thinking strategies for life success.

I use I matter to have a high self-esteem but not by being conceited, plus this RICH principle constantly reminds me that I have a purpose. I use I am responsible for my behavior to show that I have control over myself and also to show that I am different from the others.

I use I am considerate of others to show that I am not self-absorbed and also to show that life is not always about yourself but, also about the people you care for and cherish. I use thinking strategies for life success to properly plan my life and always strive for a higher position in life.

I believe that you used these 4 main principles throughout your lifetime. In my opinion, I believe that you used these principles to keep your life on the right track. I matter because you never doubted yourself; I am responsible for my behavior because even though there was racism you stayed on your course instead of retaliating and I use thinking strategies for life success because you thought of plans that were effective on the basketball court.

What I learned from you Mr. Russell is to have patience and even though people will do you wrong and hurt you, you hurt them with patience because it takes strength to be the bigger person and not retaliate. I would like to thank you, a true basketball legend, William “Bill” Russell for showing me that I can achieve anything so long ask I work hard and am diligent.


Ricardo H.

Dear Mr. Willie Brown, by Andre C.

Spring 2012

Dear Willie Brown,

Essay written by Andre C.

My name is Andre Cunningham and I am in third grade. I have chosen Willie Brown as my Visionary Leader. I chose you Mr. Brown because you were a former mayor of San Francisco and when I grow up I want to become a mayor. Mr. Brown, I want to learn more about your life. The RICH principle that explains all the great things you have accomplished is I matter. Mr. Brown, you were the first African American mayor to be elected in San Francisco and during the time you were in office, you did a lot to improve the city.

You also became a lawyer after attending Hastings College of Law. Your career as a lawyer began in the 1960s. I think that you represented the R.I.C.H principle; I use thinking strategies for school success. The reason I feel this way is because you were a lawyer and being a lawyer takes a lot of thought.

As R.I.C.H student I can inspire peers, friends, and family members to use each R.I.C.H principle by showing them a positive example like you Willie Brown. Each R.I.C.H principle means a lot to me. The R.I.C.H principle I am responsible for my behavior is helping me to develop a better character and to stop talking in class so that I can get better grades.

In my opinion the R.I.C.H principle that helped you to become successful is, I am responsible for my behavior. I would like to thank you Willie Brown for inspiring me. The lesson I learned from my research is to always use thinking strategies for success.


Andre C.
Age: 8
Grade: 3

Hi! Mrs. Yvonne Burke by Khristine Sooknauth

Spring 2016

Hi! Mrs. Yvonne Burke. My name is Khristine Sooknauth, I am ten-years old, I go to P.S.155Q, and I am in 5th grade. To me what the Reach for Success Program is about helping to expand yourself into higher levels and think out of the box. Also to inspire me to set goals that are to be achieved. We also have four principles in the program. One is “I matter”, the second one is “I am responsible for my behavior”, the third one is “I am considerate of my classmates and others and last “I use thinking strategies for school and life success.” I was introduced to the program by my guidance counselor Ms. Kurs.

To begin with, I was born in America in 2005, October 18th. The reason I chose you was because you like to try out new experiences even though sometimes when your experience literally failed you would try even harder and harder. Another reason I have chosen you, for example, once you have something and someone has absolutely nothing you would try your best to work up to something and give them so it could be equal. Also the hurtful crimes people did to you still didn’t bring you down.

And just like you, I would like to try out a political career, new experience, and last a doctor. What we don’t have in common is that you would like to stick to something so big like joining a club that literally takes a decade and I would like to see everything small and work up to something big. Also because you never give up! Although most people bring her down, “In white society they said “Women can’t do it! In the black society they were saying “, Women do too much. It’s a diabolical situation.” But still that didn’t bring you down. You stood up like they weren’t even there to hurt feelings.

The Reach for Success program is for people to expand their minds, to think outside the box. Also the program is to help you decide what your goals are and to help you achieve them. How I am using the RICH Principles is in everyday life so I can grow into gaining a positive attitude and not only help myself but I am helping other people because once they see that I am determined and I can set my mind to anything they are going to think “Well I can do that as well.” So while I am learning the principles and carrying it out into the world and let everybody know that they can do better than they are doing right now. This is all because there is always more space for more improvement. And once I do this in school I know that “I matter.”

Khristine Sooknauth matter” because just when all the people were doubting you and saying that you cannot do it is when you got even stronger and stronger. Then right there you won the Congressional bid which made you an African American women elected to congress from California or any other state in American West.

You as my chosen elder have inspired me by helping me not to be afraid to develop my potential. Also not to listen to the people that are putting you down, but to listen to the people that are making you spread yourself into succeeding in your goal.


Khristine Sooknauth
April 16, 2016