Dear Barbara Sizemore by Imani Kirlew

Spring 2013

Dear Barbara Sizemore,

My name is Imani Kirlew. Since my last name Kirlew, seems difficult for my friends to pronounce they call me Kurly Fries. I am 11 years old and in the sixth grade at Wheeler Avenue Elementary. My school goes from first graders to sixth grade. So the sixth graders are supposed to be an influence on the little ones. In school there is only one subject I love and it is math. Math to me is really fun and easy. I have been in the R.I.C.H Program for 2 years and it was a great experience, and with that great experience I learned four important principles. I learned I matter which means to believe in yourself, I am responsible for my behavior which means to have responsibility in my action, I am considerate of my classmates and others which means to help not only your friends and family but the people around you, last but not least the principle I use thinking strategies for school and life success which means to use what you learned in life and in school. This program helped me improve my grades and social life. Also, the program helped me gain a sense of responsibility and confidence in myself.

Barbara Sizemore I chose you for my NVLP project because I was inspired by your life. You were the first African American woman to head a public school system in a major city. Let’s start from the beginning. You were born on December17, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois to Sylvester and Delila Lafoon and have six siblings. At the age of eight, your father died in a terrible car accident and your mother remarried another man. After your mother remarried, your family moved to Evanston. When you were in both elementary and middle school, your schools were segregated, but you still got the best education ever. Since there weren’t any child abuse laws, you would have gotten beaten with a whip by your mother or teachers if you did something wrong in school or at home.

In 1944, you enrolled in Northwestern University and graduated with a degree in classical language in 1947. As you got older you became a teacher in Chicago’s public schools. In 1954, you earned an M.A. in elementary education from Northwestern. You stopped teaching in 1963 to become the first black female to be appointed principal of a Chicago school. In 1965, you became principal of Forestville High School and initiated efforts to turn the school from a bad place with boys in gangs and smokers into a great educated high school.

Since you did a great job educating many students, you were elected superintendent for the District of Columbia Public School System. That was the first time an African-American has been elected as superintendent in a school system in a major U.S city. Your educational views challenged many people, and with that challenge you had to face a hard time. You were fired in 1975.After that tragic incident you wrote a book called “The Ruptured Diamond” that explained everything that happened in Washington at the school and in your life. After you moved out of Washington you started teaching at University of Pittsburgh and worked with African American children.

In 1992, you assumed a professorship at DePaul University in Chicago. As the dean of School of Education, you created the School Achievement Structure program. That program started to spread around the country then around the world. The program was a very successful program to many people. As your journey ended you advised the Chicago public school system and kept on speaking and writing on many things. Barbara Sizemore, you died on June of 2004 and was a mother of six children and seven grandchildren.

As I said in the beginning of the essay, I learned four R.I.C.H principles that helps in everyday life and they are I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I will be considerate for my classmates and others, and last but not least I use thinking strategies for school and life success. These principles helped me in life and the one that helped me the most is I matter. I matter helped me gain confidence and believe in myself. It also helped me to speak up and ignore people who bother me or who just don’t like me for some reason. But most importantly I matter helped me gain confidence in myself. Before I came into the RICH Program I was afraid of my own shadow; I wouldn’t even say hi. Even in the beginning of the first year in the R.I.C.H program I never said a word to anyone, but now I’m not afraid of my shadow. I can say, hello without regretting it. I stand up for myself and stand up for my friends as well. I will always believe that I MATTER. That is why I Matter is my favorite R.I.C.H principle.

Mrs. Barbara Sizemore in your life you used an R.I.C.H principle that helped you in your life. That principle is I Matter. I matter helped you believe in yourself and overcome what other people said to you. For example, you were fired on job that helped many students stop being a bunch of rude people into successful people. After you got fired you didn’t care at all. You went on looking for a job that suits you. You believed in yourself on finding a new job that no one will fire you from. Also, when you were in the public school system many people talked about you because you were black, but you didn’t care at all you ignored them and knew that you mattered.

Mrs. Barbara Sizemore, thank you for inspiring me. You inspired me by believing in yourself and not giving up on anything. What you did inspired many people including me. You taught me to never give up in what I want to do. You are an amazing strong woman that stands up for yourself.


Imani Kirlew
May 18, 2013

Dear Chuck Brown by Christian Hernandez

Spring 2013

Dear Chuck Brown,

Hello, my name is Christian Hernandez. I go to P.S.155Q on 130th Street/ 115th Avenue. I am 11 years old, and I love to do a bunch of things. I love to sing in the choir at church and am energetic. I teach my brother how to sing, and I’m trying to learn to play the guitar. You are one of my idols. At the RICH Program, we use four different principals: 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.

I know a lot about your life. You were born in 1934 in Gaston, North Carolina. Your parents are Lyla Louise Brown and Albert Louis Moody. You grew up very poor, and had to stop going to school when you completed the seventh grade. You were imprisoned several times for robbery and selling stolen property. In the early 1950’S, you went to Lorton Reformatory for 8 years. There, you earned your high school diploma, bought your first guitar, and learned how to play it. When this happened, you showed that you mattered and you never gave up.

Soon, you played the guitar in shows. You left prison in the late 50’s. You then married your first wife and became a father. You kept on returning to Lorton Reformatory every year for 15 years. Then, you played in different bands, and in 1966, you formed your own band called “Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers”. When you created your own band, you showed that you were considerate of your fellow band players. A decade later, you began to develop your own music, called Go-Go. Years later, you made songs to support Go-Go, with different partners like Eva Cassidy and his daughter. Then, when Cassidy died, he dedicated one of his albums to her.

I chose you as my leader for different reasons. You worked hard to achieve your goals. You even made your own music. To me, you’re incredible. You never gave up, even when times were rough. Even when you were in prison, you still learned from your mistakes. You even formed your own band. Forming a band takes a lot of work, but you made it seem so easy. This is why I picked you, Chuck Brown.

I use the RICH principles to help me in school in different ways. I am using the principle “I matter” by knowing and believing that I can do the work that my teacher has given me. I am using the principal “I am responsible for my behavior” by choosing between right and wrong. I am using the principle “I am considerate of my classmates and others” by helping my friends with their work and caring for them. This is how I am using the principles to help me at school.

If there was one principle I believe you used to become successful, it was “I matter”. I believe you used this principle to help you for different reasons. You did your best to complete your goals. You were confident in yourself to do everything you could do. When you went to prison, you learned from your mistakes. You loved making music for your fans, and you also liked making a good impression on your fans. This is how you used the principle, “I matter”.

You inspire me in many ways, Chuck Brown. You make me want to be like you. I want to be a musician, not just any musician, but a musician who never gives up. I thank you for inspiring me to be like you. I believe the lesson that I learned from you is to never give up. Thank you!


Christian Hernandez
May 18, 2013

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 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 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 Ernie Banks by Tyler L.

Spring 2012

Dear Ernie Banks,

Essay written by Tyler L.

My name is Tyler L.. I attend the RICH program in Jamaica Queens, New York. In this program we take time to learn about the RICH principles and how they apply to our everyday life. There are 2 principles that are very important to me, “I matter” and “I am responsible for my behavior.” I think these principles also relate to you because you were the first National Leaguer to win an MVP award in his consecutive years (1958-1959).

In the program, we learn about these principles every week. I honestly try to apply them to my life daily. I use the principle “I matter” by believing in myself and maintaining a positive attitude. I also use the principle “I am responsible for my behavior.” I put forth high levels of effort to do my best. I think we have similar goals and from reading and learning bout you, Mr. Banks, I have been inspired. When I discovered all of your accomplishments, I used your success to help me alter my attitude about becoming successful one day.

Mostly, I apply these principles to improve my grades in school. Mr. Banks, you have inspired me to go against everything that was wrong and to do the right thing even when the wrong thing seems like the right thing to do. You are an influence to many people, specifically baseball players. That is how I know that you know you matter. Mr. Banks you also took some advice from a wonderful baseball player, Jackie Robinson. Even though there was segregation against black men you still were a Visionary Leader. Mr. Robinson once told you to listen to others and be considerate. I think that has helped you to become who you are today.

Thank you Mr. Banks for everything you have done for our race. You may have not realized this at the time but you really inspired me. The most important thing that I think you accomplished was overcoming racism and segregation as a young black athlete. You have really taught me a valuable lesson about achieving my goals. Many people, including myself, love the things you did. Congratulations, Mr. Banks!


Tyler L.

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. Carroll by Abigail Nelson

Spring 2012

Dear Ms. Carroll,

Essay written by Abigail N.

Hello my name is Abigail Nelson I have chosen to write my National Visionary Leader Essay about you because you have inspired me a lot. You worked so hard to become an actress and you were the first black women to star in a network television series. Although I don’t want to be an actress, I do want to be the best that I can at my profession. To become successful in your profession you didn’t take “no” for an answer and you strived for the best. Over the past couple months I’ve been in this program called Reach Into Cultural Heights; it has taught me many things, but the best thing about this program are the 4 principles. At the start of the program I learned the RICH principles and they are: I matter, I am responsible for my behavior, I am considerate of my classmates, and I use thinking strategies for school success. Almost everyday of my life I use each principle at school, and at home. And when I start working I will still need to use the RICH principles.

The RICH principles I think you used throughout your life are, I matter and I am responsible for my behavior. When growing up, you took your mothers advice on how to conduct yourself when acting. Your mother told you “When you’re forgiven, it makes you understand just how much you are loved. And when you forgive, the whole world opens up to you and you make yourself available to the highest form of happiness.” Also, you took music and acting lessons to become as good as you are now at your craft. By knowing that you mattered, you were determined and confident when auditioning for a role, and you still continue to break new grounds in the entertainment world.

As a RICH student I inspire my friends and family members on how to use the RICH principles in new ways. I explained each principle to them. Starting with I matter, which means to believe in yourself, have a positive attitude, and have a high self esteem. Next is I am responsible for my behavior, this principle means knowing when you did something wrong, having self control, and being respectful. I also told them stories about how I used these principles. One of the stories I told them was when I spilled red paint on my mother’s yellow mat and tried to cover it up wit yellow paint. When she went to wash the yellow mat the red paint washed away, so she asked me what happen to her carpet and I told her it was my entire fault. She wasn’t angry but was happy that I was honest with her. Then I explained the next principle which is, I am considerate of my classmates and others. This means being helpful, being appreciative, and being generous. Finally I explained the last principle which is, I use thinking strategies for school success. This principle means taking action, asking for help to do better, and making improvements.

These RICH principles helped me become a better person. They helped me stop being disrespectful, helped me focus more on my school work, encouraging me to never give up and work towards getting good grades. Thank you, Diahann Carroll for inspiring me with your success story. From your success story you taught me to continue to be determined, and focused on achieving my goals. I know that my road to success will not be easy but I am up for the challenge.


Abigail N.
Age: 13
Grade: 8

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 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