Whitman HS Students’ Art Impacts More Than Canvas

Pearl Rehm, who a year ago was a rising junior at Walt Whitman High School, loved to sing and perform.  She also had a passion to make a difference in the community.

She and her mother contacted me last Fall about ways to serve.  I gave them a tour of Germantown and told them about some of the services that had begun during COVID.  I also talked to her about our literacy tutoring program.  They wanted to do something hands-on but given the distance, it was difficult to volunteer on-site on any regular basis.

But Pearl persisted.  Sometimes it’s good to serve hands-on.  But other times, we let others do the frontline work and we support them.  Pearl decided that she was best positioned for the latter approach.  So she gathered her friends at Whitman and began a club called “Leaders To Serve.”  They began pooling their talents and energies to see how they might support their community.  In particular, these youth wanted to support our Let’s Read! Literacy Tutoring Program.

I didn’t hear from Pearl for a while.  I thought maybe she had given up.  Then in May a phone call: “We’re going to do an art show,” said Pearl excitedly.  “And we’d like some of the proceeds to go to the literacy program.”  I was elated.

In June, I drove down to Cabin John, near her house, and walked into a rented hall where about a dozen students had their artwork displayed.  There were different media, different skill levels, and certainly different subject matters.  She said each student was asked to contribute whatever they felt was appropriate from their proceeds toward our program.  I’ll confess: I didn’t expect a whole lot of funds from students’ art but every little bit helps and I was glad to have students involved.

You can imagine my surprise to have Pearl, on behalf of her club, present at our Annual Summer Picnic last weekend a check for $1,018. for the tutoring program from their art show (see photo of Pearl and me).  I was both surprised and humbled: these kids could have kept that money for their own savings but wanted to give it away to help the community.

We are very grateful for Pearl and others who have risen to the cause of affording children in Montgomery County the gift of literacy before they reach the 3rd grade.  If they don’t, statistics show their chances of dropping out of high school quadruple.

If you think you are too poor, too young, or too small an entity to make a big difference in your community, remember Pearl and think again!





  1. Tim says

    Thanks, Norm for all the mentoring and inspiration! We’ve used much of what you’ve modeled here in our neighborhood and have had great outcomes.

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