'Education and compassion:' Milwaukee school holds Juneteenth celebration for youth

MILWAUKEE -- Dozens of young people supported a Juneteenth celebration, embracing the student population's diversity, on Milwaukee's north side, Friday.

"We as a community felt we needed to celebrate our students," Kyra VandeBunte, principal at Carmen Middle and High School of Science and Technology, said. "I believe my students are the future leaders of this city, I think it's important that they know that."

The messages shared by those who attended during the day's events were as diverse as the school's students.

"About 70% of our students are Latino and 30% are African American," said Jennifer Lopez, CEO of Carmen Schools of Science and Technology.

Students put their perspectives on the pavement outside of the school's northwest campus, a few blocks southeast of 76th and Silver Spring, as part of the Juneteenth celebration for youth.

"This is a day of liberation for us as a culture," said Tameika Lawrence, a special education teacher and event organizer. "I want my children, our children in Milwaukee, to know that we hear them we feel them, we see them and we want to embrace them to give them a safe space."

Coming prepared with COVID-19 precautions, a night of treats, competition and letting loose unfolded. From the steps of the school's youth, to those of its principal.

"I am a white woman who serves mostly black students, and I think for me that means Juneteenth is about understanding the legacy of slavery in our country and understanding how that impacts us today," VandeBunte said.

Businesses and a community supporting one another, for kids taking it all in.

Tameika Lawrence

"What you fill into the child's mind or into a child's heart -- that's what resonates from them," said Lawrence. "If you instill love, peace and joy and education and compassion, that is something that is going to resonate on."

The celebration came at a time when many students have not seen each other because of COVID-19. They said the event was exactly what they needed to celebrate and remember their support network.