When William Penn Charter School’s classes ended on June 7, sixth grader Jaleel Bivins knew that his summer break wouldn’t kick off like his friends’ would.
The eleven year old is a part of the Keystone State Boychoir (KSB) so the beginning of his summer break included a trip to New York to perform “Oliver” on Broadway. On June 13, the choir traveled to Norway for a 13-day summer tour to honor those that lost their lives in Norwegian terrorist attacks in 2011.
It was in the Norwegian capital of Oslo that Bivins experienced his favorite tour moment, which consisted of presenting Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi with a replica of the Liberty Bell. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her work towards democracy and human rights in her native land of Myanmar (Burma). Because she was placed on house arrest on multiple occasions, she was unable to officially accept the award until June 19.
Originally, Bivins thought that he would be accompanied by five members of KSB to present the replica, but at the last minute, the plans changed. Filled with nerves, he mustered enough courage to say, ‘Here you go, congratulations.’
“I was really honored that I got chosen and I got to shake her hand and congratulate her on her prize,” said Bivins.
Prashanthi Bivins, Jaleel’s mother, said she learned of the exchange through the mother of another KSB member who left an incoherent message on her voicemail referring to the school’s website and Jaleel.
Like any mother, Prahanthi began wondering if her son was alright, but was pleasantly surprised by the video, which demonstrated her son’s proficiency in one of the first lessons he learned at William Penn Charter – to look people in the eye when you shake their hand.
“I was amazed and I was so proud because he handled himself so well,” said Prashanthi. “He walked up, he shook her hand looking at her and he turned around with a smile.”
KSB performed the German Verleih Uns Frieden, which means Grant Us Peace. They performed alongside renowned boychoir Sølvgutenne, which means the Boys of Silver.
Bivins returned to the United States on June 29 impressing his mother by his understanding of the experience, which she believes has a lot to do with his choir.
“Part of the thing about the choir that I love and I find so amazing is that they are so fluid,” said Prashanthi. “There are a lot of organizations that if something like this came three days before a major tour that they were going to take, they would have turned it down or made a big thing about how challenging it could be. They didn’t miss a beat.”
Bivins agreed with his mother by mentioning some of the accolades of the choir including being the only choir to sing in Antartica, making it the first choir to sing on all seven continents.
“This choir gives me the most unique opportunities that you really can’t get in many other places and they also give us a community of friends that we make,” he said. “We are a community, a family and a brotherhood.”